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A Quick Guide to Oak Trees

Basic Information on Quercus Species and Common Oaks


The oak tree has long been prized for legendary strength, longevity and excellent wood properties. Oak trees adapt well in the natural forest, the suburban yard and oak parks of inner cities. Oaks have become objects of art, myth and worship and frequently, oak trees are chosen as a symbol for all trees and for forestry in general. An oak tree is the state tree of Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, Georgia, New Jersey and Iowa. The mighty oak is also the official tree of the capitol of the United States, Washington, D.C.

The Most Common Oak Trees of North America

Mailbox on a back road in Rural South Carolina in Autumn, Leaves of the oak tree are backlit by the bright morning sun.
Glenn Ross Images /Moment Open/Getty Images

An oak tree is one of the most common species of trees in the Northern Hemisphere which includes North America. Oak trees come in two major prototypes - red oak trees and white oak trees. Oak trees have leaves that stay on the tree year-round (evergreen) and leaves that drop during dormancy (deciduous), plus they all bear the familiar acorn fruit. All oaks belong to the beech tree family. Only about 70 oak species grow to tree size in North America.

Where Oak Trees Live in North America


The larger, commercially useful oak trees primarily live in the eastern United States and particularly in the Southeast. Smaller oak species live throughout the Southwest, are of little commercial value but are a major component of chaparral and scrub plant communities.

Identify an Oak by Leaf Shape

Does your oak tree have leaves that are rounded in the bottom of the sinus and at the top of the lobe and have no spines (white oak) or does your tree have leaves that are angular to rounded at the base of the sinus and angular at the top of the lobe and have small spines (red oak)?

Red Oak Tree Group

Red oak is included in a group of oaks (northern and southern red oaks) categorized by that same name. Other red oak family members include pin oak, Shumard oak, black oak, and Nutall's oak.

White Oak Tree Group

White oak is included in a group of oaks categorized by that same name. Other white oak family members include the bur oak, chestnut oak and Oregon white oak. This oak is immediately recognized by rounded lobes plus the lobe tips never have bristles like red oak.

Oak Tree Images from ForestryImages.org

ForestryImages.org Oak Collection

Oak Tree Images Collection from ForestryImages.org. This search includes nearly 3,000 images of oak trees and pests that attack them.

Plant an Acorn - Grow an Oak Tree

Getty Image

Late August and continuing through December, the oak tree acorn is maturing and ripening for collection. The best time to collect acorns, either off the tree or from the ground, is when they begin falling - just that simple. Here are some oak acorn collection tips for those who want to grow an oak tree.

The Oldest Oak Tree in America - Live Oak

The Angel Oak is a Southern live oak tree located in Angel Oak Park, on Johns Island, South Carolina. It may be the oldest tree east of the Mississippi River and is certainly one of the most beautiful.

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