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ID and Manage White Oak



White oak is an outstanding tree among all trees and is widespread across eastern North America. The most important lumber tree of the white oak group, growth is good on all but the driest shallow soils. Its high-grade wood is useful for many things, an important one being staves for barrels, hence the name stave oak. The acorns are an important food for many kinds of wildlife.


Scientific name: Quercus alba
Pronunciation: kwerk-us alba
Common names: White oak, stave oak
Family: Fagaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 4 through 9
Origin: White oak grows throughout most of the Eastern United States.
Uses: most important lumber tree of the white oak group, sometimes planted as an ornamental tree
Availability: commonly seen and purchased


Height: 65 to 100 feet
Diameter: 3 to 4 feet or more
Habit: wide-spreading branched oak, rounded crown
Acorns: 3/8-1 1/4" long, egg-shaped, 1/4 enclosed by shallow cap
Leaves: 4-9" long, 2-4" wide, 5-9 lobed, elliptical
Growth Rate: moderate
Landscape value: desirable in most situations


Leaf color: bright green top, white-gray green bottom
Leaf type: simple, lobed
Leaf shape: elliptical, widest beyond middle and tapering to base
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous but persistent
Leaf blade length: 4 to 9 inches long
Fall color: red or brown
Fall characteristic: moderately showy


Habitat is moist well-drained uplands and lowlands, often in pure stands. The White Oak makes an outstanding shade tree, with an exceptionally wide spread and almost never dropping limbs. However, it does not tolerate soil compaction and changes in soil levels. It will thrive in residential neighborhoods where protected from such change.

In Depth:

Soil Conditions - White oak grows on a wide range of soils and sites. It is found on podzols, gray-brown podzolic soils, brown podzolic soils, red and yellow podzolic soils, lithosols, planasols, and alluviums. It is found on sandy plains, gravelly ridges, rich uplands, coves, and well-drained loamy soils. Growth is good on all but the driest, shallowest soils

Close Relatives - It is sometimes confused with the Swamp white oak, a closely-related species, and the Bur oak. The White oak hybridizes freely with the Bur oak, the Post oak, and the Chestnut oak.[

Ethnobotany - White Oak has served as the official state tree of Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland. The Wye Oak, probably the oldest living white oak until it was felled by a thunderstorm on June 6, 2002, was the honorary state tree of Maryland. Being the subject of a legend as old as the colony itself, the Charter Oak of Hartford, Connecticut is one of the most famous white oaks in America. The tree now makes up the reverse side of the Connecticut state quarter.

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