August Tree of the Month: White Oak (Quercus alba)


White Oak

(Quercus alba)

049Pyramidal in shape as a young tree, it slowly matures into an imposing dense and broadly rounded specimen. Commonly reaching 70 to 90 feet tall, it can exceed 100 feet tall with a spread over 150 feet. Under favorable conditions, many white oaks have lived for 300 to 500 years and have been witnesses to numerous historical events.

White Oak leaves are the classic rounded lobed leaves we associate with oaks. They emerge in May, pinkish-white in color, turning a bright green in summer with a paler and pubescent underside. The flowers, although ornamentally inconsequential, appear when the leaves are about 1/3 developed. The female flowers appear on short spikes while the males occur separately as 2 to 3 inch catkins. Oak flowers are wind pollinated which can be tough on allergies, not to mention your cars finish.

050The Oak’s fruits or acorns are borne singly or in pairs and mature in one season. Inside the ¾ inch cup is a sweet edible kernel which is a favorite of squirrels. White Oak is considered one of the most important use trees in the East because of its high lumber value for hardwood floors, furniture, kegs, fuel wood and in colonial times, for ship building.

White Oaks are susceptible to numerous pests and diseases including anthracnose, leaf blister and gypsy moth, but they all seem to be no trouble for the mighty White Oak. Few trees are as noble or picturesque as a mature White Oak. If you are fortunate enough to have one, or patient enough to plant one, sit back and enjoy!