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Bur Oak - The 2001 Urban Tree of the Year
Society of Municipal Arborists Picks the Most Popular City Tree to Plant

The bur oak was selected as 2001 Urban Tree of the Year by a majority of respondents to a July survey in arborist magazine City Trees. City Trees serves as Journal to The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA). According to SMA "the popularity of the Bur Oak comes from its tolerance to the urban environment and drought, its majestic form in summer and winter, and its specimen qualities."

bur oak - 2001 Tree of the Year

Bur oak" or Quercus macrocarpa sheltered and inspired North American pioneers who settled the prairies. This bur oak or mossycup oak spotted the open spaces of the Great Plains and was noted for its thick "corky" bark that insulated the trunk and branches. The slow-growing, long-living oak could resist the fires that swept through mid-western prairies and forests. With roots that were nearly as expansive as the aboveground tree, the bur oak could withstand windstorms as well as droughts.

These same pioneers found the tree to be excellent wood and waiting the necessary 20 to 30 years after planting was worth it for its shade and resistance to cold, drought and fire. The tree's popularity transcends those pioneer days and those very trees stand in mid-American cities as a tribute to its hardiness.

According to City Trees Editor, Leonard Phillips, the tree was chosen "to illustrate the importance of selecting the right tree for the right spot. The intent of this [Tree of the Year] program is not to indicate that this tree is the perfect tree that can grow anywhere. It is to make municipal arborists aware of this tree and they should use it if they have a site suitable for it." A lot of arborists and urban foresters have used the tree and are recommending it highly in and around towns and cities.

Arthur Plotnik, in his Urban Tree Book describes the tree this way - "The tree's distinctively shaggy acorn - also one of the largest acorns at up to 2.5 inches - is absent on trees under 35 years old or so. But other features, including corky ridges on the twigs, identify a youthful tree. At its largest, the leaf is about a foot long and six inches wide, biggest of all the oak leaves. The typical blade is thick, firm, and fiddle-shaped, narrower toward the stalk and with a pinched midsection formed by a pair of large, deep notches (sinuses)."

Here is a bur oak descriptive summary:

Description (provided by City Trees)
Common Names: Bur Oak, blue oak, mossy-overcup oak, mossy-overcup oak, and scrub oak
Botanical Name: Quercus macrocarpa
Pronunciation: KWER-kus ma-kro-CAR-pa
Native Habitat Eastern half of North America
Hardiness Zone: 2 - 8
Mature Size: Height 70' - 80' can reach 100' Spread 70'- 80'
Flower: Monoecious, yellow, male staminate catkins, solitary pistillate flowers
Fruit: Solitary nut, 3/4" - 11/2" long, downy apex, fringed margin, half enclosed or more
Foliage: Foliage: Dark green in summer, dull yellow green to brown in autumn, lustrous above, whitish tomentoulose beneath, fiddle shaped leaves, thick substance, large leaf 4" - 10" long, varying from 2" - 5" wide, rounded base, lower portion of leaf has 2 - 3 pair of lobes while upper portion has 5 - 7 pair of lobes
Bark: Rough, deep ridges, dark gray to brown, 4" thick on mature trees provides fire resistance
Twigs: Stout with corky ridges, multiple terminal buds
Growth Rate: Slow, 20' in 20 years
Planting: Difficult to transplant, best to use containerized stock
Site Requirements: Very adaptable, usually found in alluvial bottom land, prefers limestone soils, tolerates dry clay soil, very tolerant of urban conditions, likes full sun
Pest Resistance: Some disease and pest problems but none serious
Storm Resistance: Excellent
Salt Resistance: Good
Landscape Uses: Excellent for use as a specimen, very large tree, too large for average home landscape, excellent park tree, pyramidal in youth, rounded with age, excellent for use in mid-west shelter belts
Other Comments: Excellent, long-lived, drought tolerant shade tree
Available from: Most nurseries, especially those in the mid-west.


Past SMA Urban Trees of the Year:

2000: Redmond Linden - Tilia americana 'Redmond'

1999: Skyline Honeylocust - Gleditsia triacanthos inermis 'Skycole'

1998: Swamp White Oak - Quercus bicolor

1997: Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac - Syringa reticulata

1996: Princeton Sentry Ginkgo - Ginkgo biloba

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