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Oak Tree Identification

Oak Tree Identification

There are several species of oak tree and each one has unique features. One can easily identify the species by examining specific features in a particular tree. Let's see unique characteristics of some common oak species.
Gardenerdy Staff
Last Updated: Jan 25, 2018
A symbol of strength and endurance, the magnificent oak tree is the national tree of countries like England, Germany, United States, Estonia, Wales, etc. Native to the northern hemisphere, primarily in America and parts of Asia, there are over 400 species of this genus, some of which are flowering trees. Learning about oak trees will help one distinguish among its many species.
Features like leaves, bark, tree crown, flowers, etc., help in identifying different oak species because these features vary from one species to the other. Discussed below are identification features of some commonly found species of oak tree.
Identification of Oak Trees
  • White Oak
This incredible oak tree is the state tree of Connecticut, Illinois and Maryland. It can grow between 80 to 100 feet in height, and has a rounded crown of 3 to 4 feet. Its bark is ash gray in color, with loose broad plates. The leaves are alternate, 4 to 7 inches long, and have 7 to 10 rounded lobes with yellow-green or reddish green flowers appearing in between the leaves.
  • Black Oak
This is a medium-sized tree that grows up to 80 feet in height. It has a very unshapely crown that tends to taper with spindly branches on the top. This is a very striking feature for its identification. Its leaves are lustrous shiny green, alternate, 4 to 10 inches long, and simple. The bark of a young tree is gray, that turns rough and black on the outer side, while the inner bark becomes yellow-orange on maturity. Flowers are borne on short spikes in leaf axils in spring along with beautiful colored leaves.
  • Northern Red Oak
This medium-sized tree with a short trunk and a round crown can be found growing abundantly from Nova Scotia west along the US-Canadian border, to Minnesota, south to Arkansas and east to the northern half of Georgia! It belongs to the family of the Red oak. Its leaves are shiny, alternate, 5 to 8 inches oblong with seven to eleven lobes, and uniform in shape. The acorns they produce are highly valued by animals and birds that live close to the tree.
  • Chestnut Oak
This oak has a crooked trunk and an irregular, narrow crown. Although it grows on dry rocky slopes, it prefers wet coves and stream sides. This tree grows anywhere between 50 to 70 feet in height. Bark of older trees are thick and deeply divided into broad, rounded ridges. The leaves are alternate, with slightly oval edges and large round teeth. Flowers are borne between the leaves.
  • Bur Oak
It is also known as Mossycup Oak. This tree has stout branches and spreads informally during initial years of establishment, but later forms a round crown. The crown height is around 40 to 70 feet with a width of 35 to 60 feet. The bark is dark gray in color and has rough, deep ridges all over. Its leaves are simple, semi-glossy on the above surface, and are 4 to 10 inches in length. Leaf color is dark green on the above surface and grayish to whitish-green below, and flowers are reddish (female flowers) and yellow-green (male flowers).
  • Cherrybark Oak
This species has a dark gray bark which is broken down into small scales by narrow ridges. Its leaves are simple, arranged alternatively, and are up to 10 inches long. The upper surface is smooth and lustrous, while the lower surface is pale and has star-shaped hair. It bears orange-brown globular nuts which are about 13 mm in length.
The varied shapes, sizes and colors make oak tree identification easy and fun. Well, I hope the above mentioned characteristics of oak trees will help you identify which one you live close to!
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