How to Identify 23 Common Oak Tree Species

Often referred to as the “king of trees,” the mighty oak is held in high regard for its strength and longevity.

With hundreds of stunning species out there, there’s plenty of options for Quercus fans to choose from and adore.

But how does one tell one species from another? Which varieties are native to North America, and which might be suited to cultivating in the home landscape?

A vertical image of a large oak tree growing in the landscape pictured in bright sunshine. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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In my opinion, species of oak are a lot like pasta shapes.

Sure, you could slap the generic name “oak” onto a Quercus just like you could call a bowl of random noodles “pasta,” but it wouldn’t be giving due credit to that specific variety’s awesomeness.

And just like with pasta, being able to tell different types of oaks apart comes in handy.

For general information on growing oak trees, see our guide.

In this article, we’ll go over a handful of the most common oak trees, how to identify them, and what makes them so special.

After reading it, you’ll be able to tell these different species apart at a glance, which will surely impress those not in the know.

Before we dive into the individual species, let’s go over the two major groups of oaks that species are often divided into: red and white.

Species from the red or Erythrobalanus group usually have bristly and jagged leaf lobe tips, pointed buds, roughly-textured and darker-colored bark, smaller sizes at maturity, and bitter-tasting acorns that take two years to fully mature.

Alternatively, species from the white or Leucobalanus group tend to have wavy and rounded leaf lobes, rounded buds, flaky and lighter-colored bark, larger mature sizes, and sweet-tasting acorns that mature in a single year.

Becoming familiar with these features isn’t enough to differentiate species within these two groups. However, it’s very helpful for quickly ruling out what your Quercus is not.

Here we go!

1. Black

A member of the Erythrobalanus group, Q. velutina has a tall, straight trunk and an open crown that can be rounded or irregular in shape.

Its oval-shaped acorns are reddish-brown and striped, with a tan cap that covers half of the acorn.

A close up horizontal image of the red and green fall foliage of a black oak (Quercus velutina) pictured on a dark background.

Native to the eastern United States, the tree flaunts lustrous green leaves with seven to nine bristle-tipped lobes and fuzzy undersides.

This velvety texture also coats leaf buds and is a key feature for identification – velutina means “velvety,” after all. Another helpful feature is the black bark at maturity, hence the common name.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 50-60 feet
  • Spread: 50-60 feet
  • Leaf Length: 4-10 inches
  • Leaf Width: 3-8 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.5-0.75 inches
  • Bark Color: Black at maturity
  • Bark Texture: Deeply furrowed

The black oak isn’t a significant tree in landscaping, but it’s a real aesthetic treat when you find one out in nature!

2. Bur

Also known as the mossycup oak, Q. macrocarpa is a member of the white oak group that hails from northern and central regions of the US, and southeastern Canada.

This tree has a broad, strong crown and rounded, dark green foliage that’s only significantly lobed in the lower half of each leaf.

A close up of the foliage and acorns of a bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) set on a white surface.

Additionally, it has huge brown acorns – hence the name macrocarpa, or “large fruit” – that are almost entirely covered with tan caps.

These have conspicuously-fringed margins, and each looks a lot like a “mossy cup,” if you will. These acorns and the uniquely-lobed leaves are dead giveaways for Q. macrocarpa identification.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 60-80 feet
  • Spread: 60-80 feet
  • Leaf Length: 6-12 inches
  • Leaf Width: 3-6 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.75-1.5 inches
  • Bark Color: Dark gray to gray-brown
  • Bark Texture: Deeply ridged and furrowed

As you can imagine, such an interesting tree can be quite valuable. Plant it in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 8 with full sun, solid drainage, and moist, fertile soils.

Fun fact: here in Boone County, Missouri, there’s a legendary bur oak known as The Big Tree, a beloved, 400-year-old specimen that’s almost 90 feet tall and 130 feet wide! I’ve had the privilege of seeing it in person, and it’s a big ol’ boy for sure.

3. Chinkapin

Hailing from the eastern United States, Q. muehlenbergii is a member of the white oak group, but it has oblong lance-shaped shiny green leaves with coarsely toothed margins, rather than rounded lobes.

A close up vertical image of a large chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) tree growing in the landscape.
Photo via Alamy.

Its crown is open and globe-shaped, and it has small, oval-shaped acorns that mature to black and are halfway covered with tan, scaly cups.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 40-60 feet
  • Spread: 50-70 feet
  • Leaf Length: 4-6 inches
  • Leaf Width: 2-3 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.75-1 inch
  • Bark Color: Ash gray
  • Bark Texture: Rough and flaky

Trying to add some beautifully-jagged chinkapin leaves to your own landscape? Make sure the tree is given full sun, ample drainage, and a moist, fertile loam in USDA Zones 5 to 7.

Learn more about growing chinkapin oaks in our guide.

4. Columnar

The narrow, fastigiate form of an English oak, Q. robur f. fastigiata is a skinny tree from the Leucobalanus group that flaunts sharply upright branching and densely packed green leaves, with six to 14 blunted lobes and blue-green undersides.

A vertical image of a large columnar oak (Quercus robur f. fastigiata) growing in a clearing by the side of a road.

The top third of its shiny, brown, elongated acorns are covered with a tan cap.

Having trouble telling this species apart from Q. alba? Check the base of each leaf for a pair of earlobe-esque lobes, which is a clear sign that these trees are cut from English oak cloth.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 40-70 feet
  • Spread: 10-20 feet
  • Leaf Length: 2-4 inches
  • Leaf Width: 0.75-2.5 inches
  • Acorn Length: 1 inch
  • Bark Color: Grayish black
  • Bark Texture: Deeply furrowed

These trees are hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8. They grow well in full sun and well-draining soils of average fertility with moderate moisture.

All in all, this is a lanky version of a gorgeous Old World tree that’s perfect for narrow planting spaces!

5. Cork

Q. suber is an interesting entry on our list as it’s the first of the live oaks, which are species of Quercus with evergreen leaves.

And as such, live oaks such as Q. suber don’t fit into the deciduous red or white groups.

A close up vertical image of the textured bark on the trunk of a cork bark oak (Quercus suber) tree.

Native to northern Africa and southern Europe, the cork oak has dark green, oval-shaped, wavy-toothed, leathery leaves of a shiny, dark green hue. Additionally, it flaunts long, tan-capped, and red to black acorns.

The tree is named for its thick and corky bark, which is cultivated in Europe and Africa for its commercial applications in wine bottle corks and the like.

This bark, in combination with the evergreen leaves, are how you spot Q. suber.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 40-70 feet
  • Spread: 40-70 feet
  • Leaf Length: 2-4 inches
  • Leaf Width: 1-3 inches
  • Acorn Length: 1.25 inches
  • Bark Color: Reddish-brown
  • Bark Texture: Corky, deeply fissured

Corky utility aside, it’s also a splendid street tree, park planting, or suitable option to provide shade for a residence.

Make sure it’s situated in USDA Zones 8 to 10, given full sun to partial shade, watered little, and provided with acidic loam to grow in.

6. Holly

Another live oak with evergreen foliage, Q. ilex flaunts a rounded crown that branches pretty close to the ground for a Quercus.

A close up horizontal image of the acorns and foliage of a holly oak tree (Quercus ilex) pictured on a soft focus background.

Native to the Mediterranean, holly oaks have dark green leaves that resemble holly, hence the common name.

Its large acorns are long, with gray caps that cover a third of the dark red to brown nuts.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 40-70 feet
  • Spread: 40-70 feet
  • Leaf Length: 3-5 inches
  • Leaf Width: 1 inch
  • Acorn Length: 0.75-1.5 inches
  • Bark Color: Gray
  • Bark Texture: Smooth to fissured

The Ilex-like leaves are the most helpful clue for picking this species out of a lineup.

If you’ve ever wanted holly-like foliage paired with the wood of a Quercus, you can’t do better than the holly oak.

For any interested growers, this species is hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10 and needs to be situated in a rich and moist loam with full sun to partial shade exposure.

7. Live

Just as Q. alba and Q. rubra are the flagship species for the Erythrobalanus and Leucobalanus groups, Q. virginiana is the poster child among evergreen live oaks.

To avoid confusion with other species, the common name “southern live oak” comes in handy here.

A close up of developing acorns and dark green foliage of a live oak (Quercus virginiana) pictured on a soft focus background.

Native to the southeastern US and Mexico, the southern live oak is an evergreen Quercus that branches low, spreads wide, and is often found draped with Spanish moss in its native range.

This tree has leathery, glossy, and elliptical-shaped leaves of a dark green hue, with smooth margins that are rather uncharacteristic for a Quercus.

Its acorns are long and extremely dark, with tan caps that encase the top third.

A symbolic planting of the American south, this tree is often found lining the long driveways of Southern-style mansions and former plantations.

I’m pretty sure Q. virginiana provided the backdrop for many scenes in “Django Unchained,” but it’s been a minute since I’ve seen that movie.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 40-80 feet
  • Spread: 60-100 feet
  • Leaf Length: 1.25-5 inches
  • Leaf Width: 0.5-1.5 inches
  • Acorn Length: 1 inch
  • Bark Color: Dark gray
  • Bark Texture: Alligator-like

If you want to cultivate one, be sure to grow it in USDA Zones 8 to 10, place it in well-draining soil, and provide it with moderate moisture and full sun.

This tree is especially long-lived for an oak, so any hopeful growers and their descendants will be sure to enjoy it for years to come!

A square image of a live oak growing in a sunny park.

Live Oak

Live Q. virginiana transplants are available from FastGrowingTrees.com.

8. Mexican White

A Mexican native oak, Q. polymorpha is a member of the Leucobalanus group, with a broad and rounded crown.

The species epithet polymorpha refers to the way that individual leaves vary in form among and between individual specimens.

A close up horizontal image of the foliage and tiny developing acorns on a Mexican white oak pictured in bright sunshine.
Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Wikimedia Commons, via CC BY-SA.

In general, these verdant and ovate leaves are semi-evergreen, with margins that vary in smoothness and serration.

This tree also produces light brown acorns that are covered halfway with a light gray cap.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 40-60 feet
  • Spread: 30-40 feet
  • Leaf Length: 4-5 inches
  • Leaf Width: 2-3 inches
  • Acorn Length: 1 inch
  • Bark Color: Gray
  • Bark Texture: Ridged and exfoliating

This fast-growing tree is the fantastic and novel Quercus to add to a garden in USDA Zones 7 to 10.

If you want to cultivate one of your own, make sure to put it in a full sun location with well-draining soil, and be sure to read our guide to Mexican white oaks to learn more.

9. Nuttall

Also known as Q. texana, the Nuttal oak hails from the southern and central regions of the United States, and is a wide-spreading, rounded, and open-canopied member of the Erythrobalanus group.

A close up horizontal image of the foliage of a nuttall oak (Quercus texana) growing in the landscape.
Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Wikimedia Commons, via CC BY-SA.

Its bright green leaves have five to nine bristly lobes with deep, wide gaps between them, and the tree produces brown, striped acorns that are covered a bit less than halfway with tan caps.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 50-80 feet
  • Spread: 40-65 feet
  • Leaf Length: 4-9 inches
  • Leaf Width: 2-5 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.75-1.25 inches
  • Bark Color: Medium to dark gray
  • Bark Texture: Smooth to furrowed

The tree’s beauty and cultural toughness make it a fine addition to landscapes.

To add one to yours, make sure it’s planted in USDA Zones 6 to 9 with full sun. Moist, rich loam is ideal, though it can tolerate a variety of soil types.

Nuts for Nuttall oak? It’s available in one- and three-gallon sizes from Perfect Plants Nursery.

10. Overcup

An oak from the Leucobalanus group, Q. lyrata hails from the central and southern United States, often found growing in bottomlands.

With a rounded habit and uniform branching, these trees look especially nice in a row or group.

A close up horizontal image of the foliage of an overcup oak (Quercus lyrata) growing in the garden pictured in bright sunshine on a blue sky background.

The deep green leaves have fuzzy white undersides and six to 10 bluntly pointed lobes, with the largest pair in the middle.

The brown acorns are rounded, and almost completely encased by their tan caps.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 40-60 feet
  • Spread: 40-60 feet
  • Leaf Length: 6-8 inches
  • Leaf Width: 1.5-5 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.75-1 inch
  • Bark Color: Gray
  • Bark Texture: Fissured

Fast and uniform growth, ease of transplanting, and tolerance of shoddy soils all make this a worthwhile planting in USDA Zones 5 to 9.

Make sure to provide full sun and moist, acidic loams for optimal growth.

11. Pin

Also known as Q. palustris, pin oaks are a layup, identification-wise.

Native to the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, these members of the red oak group have a broad pyramidal crown and branches that are ascending towards the top, somewhat horizontal towards the middle, and descending towards the bottom.

A close up vertical image of the bright green foliage and developing acorns of a pin oak (Quercus palustris) pictured on a blue sky background.

Each glossy, dark green leaf is thin and has five bristly lobes with very deep gaps between them, creating the appearance of super slender foliage even though the leaves themselves aren’t small.

The acorns have super shallow tan caps, and the nuts themselves are light brown with a nearly round, domed shape.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 50-70 feet
  • Spread: 40-60 feet
  • Leaf Length: 3-6 inches
  • Leaf Width: 2-5 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.5 inch
  • Bark Color: Grayish brown
  • Bark Texture: Slightly ridged

The distinctive growth habit, leaves, and acorns all combine to make this tree a very popular commercial planting, for open landscapes and urban areas alike.

Full sun and a moist, loamy planting site in USDA Zones 4 to 8 are recommended.

A square image of a large pin oak growing in a garden with a residence in the background.

Pin Oak

Interested in this tree? Four- to seven-foot pin oaks are available from FastGrowingTrees.com.

12. Post

A member of the white oak group, Q. stellata is a rounded and densely-crowned tree that’s native to the eastern United States.

The durable wood of this tree was valued by pioneers and often used for fence post construction in the late 18th to early 19th century, hence the name.

A close up horizontal image of the foliage of a post oak (Quercus stellata) pictured on a soft focus background in light sunshine.

The dark green, roughly-textured leaves of this plant have three to five extremely rounded lobes, with narrow, slitted sinuses between them.

The acorns produced are oval-shaped, with tan caps that cover half to a third of the brown nuts.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 35-50 feet
  • Spread: 35-50 feet
  • Leaf Length: 4-8 inches
  • Leaf Width: 3-4 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.75-1 inch
  • Bark Color: Gray
  • Bark Texture: Ridged

This tree is rarely used in the landscape, but is quite attractive when stumbled upon out in the wild.

13. Red

As red oak-y as they come, Q. rubra wields a rounded, symmetrical to irregular crown.

A native of eastern North America, this tree flaunts glossy dark green leaves with seven to 11 bristly-toothed lobes and shallow leaf sinuses.

A close up horizontal image of the autumn foliage of a red oak (Quercus rubra) tree pictured on a soft focus background.

A light brown cap that looks suspiciously like a beret covers the top quarter of the gray-streaked brown acorns.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 50-75 feet
  • Spread: 50-75 feet
  • Leaf Length: 4.5-8.5 inches
  • Leaf Width: 4-6 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.75-1 inch
  • Bark Color: Gray
  • Bark Texture: Shallowly fissured

A speedy grower fit for golf courses, streets, and parks, Q. rubra is an easy tree to cultivate, provided that you’re located in USDA Zones 4 to 8, provide full sun, and put it in well-draining and fertile sandy loams.

A square image of a large northern red oak growing in the landscape.

Northern Red Oak

If you wish to grow one of your own, starting sizes of four to seven feet are available from PlantingTree.com.

14. Sawtooth

North America has the largest number of native oak species, but they come from other continents, too. Take the Asian Q. acutissima, for example – it hails from Japan, China, Korea, Thailand, and the Himalayas.

Believe it or not, there’s also a “Cerris” group of Quercus, a section of species with traits that straddle the line between the red and white oak groups. It’s in this group that Q. acutissima belongs, with its broad, rounded habit.

A close up horizontal image of a developing acorn of the sawtooth oak (Quercus acutissima) with foliage in soft focus in the background.

The oblong, glossy, dark green leaves have 12 to 16 prominent veins with bristles that protrude from the serrated margins.

As you could have probably guessed, each leaf has a sawtoothed appearance that’s quite easily recognizable.

The acorns are very unique, too – up to two-thirds of each brown nut is covered with a shaggy-scaled gray cap.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 40-60 feet
  • Spread: 40-60 feet
  • Leaf Length: 3.5-7.5 inches
  • Leaf Width: 1-2.25 inches
  • Acorn Length: 1 inch
  • Bark Color: Ash brown
  • Bark Texture: Deeply furrowed and ridged

Due to its vigorous acorn production and foreign origins, this tree has invasive growing potential across the United States, and is listed as invasive in many states.

This makes knowing what it looks like important. Although Q. acutissima is a handsome tree, you’re better off selecting native oaks instead.

15. Scarlet

A member of the Erythrobalanus group, Q. coccinea hails from the eastern United States and southern Canada, and rocks a rounded, open habit.

A close up horizontal image of the foliage of a scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) pictured in light sunshine.

The tree flaunts glossy, dark green leaves that look like a cross between those of Q. rubra and Q. palustris, with seven to nine bristly lobes and moderately-sized sinuses.

The top third to half of the reddish-brown nuts are covered with a brownish-tan cap, and there’s a distinctive ring that surrounds each acorn’s point.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 50-70 feet
  • Spread: 40-50 feet
  • Leaf Length: 3-6 inches
  • Leaf Width: 2.5-4.5 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.5 to 1 inch
  • Bark Color: Gray to gray-brown
  • Bark Texture: Shallowly ridged

An aesthetic, drought-tolerant planting for lawns and streets, scarlet oaks prefer full sun, acidic sandy soils, little moisture, and placement in USDA Zones 4 to 9.

16. Sessile

Q. petraea is a white oak from Europe and Western Asia, with a similarly rounded habit to that of Q. rubra.

A close up horizontal image of the acorns and foliage of a sessile oak (Quercus petraea) tree growing in the landscape.

The leaves, however, are very different – light green, oval-shaped, and with four to six pairs of rounded lobes.

The reddish-brown acorns are long and stemless, i.e. sessile, with a tan cap spanning a third of the nut.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 60-80 feet
  • Spread: 60-80 feet
  • Leaf Length: 3-7 inches
  • Leaf Width: 1-3.75 inches
  • Acorn Length: 1 inch
  • Bark Color: Dark gray
  • Bark Texture: Deeply fissured

This tree is not very common in US cultivation, but it’s a delight for those who happen to stumble across it.

It’s definitely more beloved across the pond, though – it’s the national tree of Ireland!

17. Shingle

A tree that’s native to the eastern half of the US, Q. imbricaria has a conical form that broadens with age.

A close up horizontal image of the deep green foliage and acorns developing on a large shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria) growing in the landscape.

The lance-shaped, glossy dark green leaves have a bristly tip, a nod to its Erythrobalanus membership, while its rounded, dark brown acorns are covered less than halfway with a tan cap.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 40-60 feet
  • Spread: 40-60 feet
  • Leaf Length: 1.25-4 inches
  • Leaf Width: 0.5-2 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.625 inches
  • Bark Color: Brownish gray
  • Bark Texture: Shallowly furrowed

Species of Quercus don’t usually make for great hedges, but Q. imbricaria is a delightful exception.

With long-lasting, dense foliage and a high tolerance for pruning, shingle oaks can function in the landscape as stupendous screens!

Be sure to provide full sun, moderate moisture, and rich soils that drain well in USDA Zones 5 to 8.

18. Shumard

An Erythrobalanus species from the southeastern United States, Q. shumardii has a pyramidal, open crown in its youth that broadens with age.

A close up horizontal image of the large, leathery green leaves of a shumard oak (Quercus shumardii) growing in the landscape.

Sprouting from said crown are leathery green leaves with seven to nine bristly lobes and deeply-cut sinuses. The base of each oval-shaped, dark brown acorn is covered by a broad, tan cap.

Very similar to scarlet oaks, shumard oaks are best differentiated by looking at their buds, which are more sharply pointed.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 40-60 feet
  • Spread: 30-40 feet
  • Leaf Length: 6-8 inches 
  • Leaf Width: 3-4 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.75-1.5 inches
  • Bark Color: Gray
  • Bark Texture: Furrowed

Any interested growers in USDA Zones 5 to 9 should be sure to provide full sun, while a variety of soils and moisture levels are tolerable.

A square image of a large shumard oak growing by the side of a road.

Shumard Oak

Shumard oak transplants are available in four- to seven-foot sizes from PlantingTree.com.

19. Southern Red

Also known as the Spanish oak, Q. falcata is an Erythrobalanus type with a rounded habit that hails from the southeastern US.

A close up horizontal image of the foliage of a southern red oak tree growing in the garden.
Photo by Katja Schulz, Wikimedia Commons, via CC BY-SA.

The foliage is dark green up top, pale green below, and the lobe count varies wildly, with three to nine bristle-tipped lobes per leaf.

The small, globe-shaped acorns are vertically striped with alternating strips of light and dark brown.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 60 to 80 feet
  • Spread: 40 to 50 feet
  • Leaf Length: 4-9 inches
  • Leaf Width: 4-5 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.5 inch
  • Bark Color: Gray
  • Bark Texture: Ridged

Not a common commercial planting, it works quite nicely in the south, as you probably could have guessed.

20. Swamp White

A swamp-loving member of the white oak group, Q. bicolor earned its species epithet from the way its oblong, coarsely-toothed leaves are light green on top, and practically silver underneath.

A close up horizontal image of the foliage of a swamp oak (Quercus bicolor) pictured in light sunshine.
Photo by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Wikimedia Commons, via CC BY-SA.

With a short trunk and a rounded, broad crown, this tree produces light brown acorns, with a brownish-tan cap on the top third of each.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 50-60 feet
  • Spread: 50-60 feet
  • Leaf Length: 3-7 inches
  • Leaf Width: 1.25-4 inches
  • Acorn Length: 1 inch 
  • Bark Color: Gray
  • Bark Texture: Moderately furrowed

This species from northeastern North America is a perfect planting for low, wet spots in the landscape, although it can tolerate drought, as well.

Be sure to give this variety the ol’ full sun treatment that oaks love.

21. Water

Hailing from the southeastern US, Q. nigra has a form which varies from conical to round-topped.

A close up horizontal image of the rounded foliage of a water oak (Quercus nigra) tree growing in the garden.

Belonging to the red oak group, this tree wields blue-green to green leaves that are actually quite variable in shape and dimensions, but they usually have three lobes towards the apex which give the foliage a uniquely club-like shape.

Additionally, the dark acorns are striped in alternating hues of brown and black, with a light brown cap covering the top quarter to third of each nut.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 50-80 feet
  • Spread: 40-60 feet
  • Leaf Length: 1.5-4 inches
  • Leaf Width: 0.5-2 inches
  • Acorn Length: 0.5 inch
  • Bark Color: Light to dark gray
  • Bark Texture: Shallowly furrowed

With a name like “water oak,” this tree will thrive in moist spots within the landscape.

Add full sun, rich soils, and a location somewhere in USDA Zones 6 to 9 to the mix, and you’ve got one happy tree.

22. White

As closely adhering to the qualities of a Leucobalanus as an oak can be, Q. alba is a tree from the eastern United States that starts out pyramidal, growing rounded and spreading imposingly wide with maturity.

A close up vertical image of an acorn of a white oak (Quercus alba) with large green leaves surrounding it.

The dark green to blue-green leaves of the white oak are oblong to obovate, with about five to nine rounded lobes and narrow, yet deeply-cut sinuses.

The ovate, light brown acorns are covered with a tan, warty-scaled cap that extends a third of the way down.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 50-80 feet
  • Spread: 50-80 feet
  • Leaf Length: 4-9 inches 
  • Leaf Width: 2-4.5 inches 
  • Acorn Length: 0.75-1 inch
  • Bark Color: Gray
  • Bark Texture: Scaly, irregularly plated

Slow to grow and tough to cultivate, this is not the best selection for landscaping, although it’s quite attractive.

But its lumber – and generally that of the entire Leucobalanus group, by the way – is quite resistant to moisture absorption.

Here in Missouri, Q. alba is highly valued for its utility in making wine barrels, fun fact.

23. Willow

Another tree from the red oak group that’s native to the southeastern United States, Q. phellos has a common name that’s easy to explain, what with its skinny, lance-shaped, green leaves that very much resemble willow foliage.

A close up vertical image of the foliage of a willow oak (Quercus phellos) pictured in bright sunshine on a blue sky background.

The small acorns of this dense, rounded tree are topped with a thin, saucer-like cap and striped with alternating bands of brown and black.

Features at a Glance

  • Height: 40 to 75 feet
  • Spread: 25 to 50 feet
  • Leaf Length: 2-5.5 inches
  • Leaf Width: 0.33-1 inch
  • Acorn Length: 0.5 inches or less
  • Bark Color: Gray
  • Bark Texture: Furrowed and ridged

Most oak trees have leaves that are pretty big – “large” is the ornamental strength of many a Quercus, after all.

But if you’re looking for a thinner-leaved variety, the willow oak is the perfect tree for the job.

Give it full sun and well-draining loams in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9, and it’ll absolutely flourish.

A square image of willow oaks growing in a park.

Willow Oak

If you want a Q. phellos transplant in a starting size of four to seven feet, check out PlantingTree.com.

A-Oak-Kay

How’s that for an oak tree guide, huh? Enough to kick-start a love of the Quercus genus, I hope.

A horizontal image of the sun shining through the branches of a large oak tree growing in the landscape.

There are many oak trees to discover and identify, so keep your eyes peeled when you’re out and about. And if you’ve decided to grow one in your landscape, then kudos to you!

Questions, comments, oak ID tips that you’ve learned? Put ’em in the comments section below.

Have a ton of mental storage for landscape tree varieties? These guides are sure to fill up those databanks:

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As a native Missourian, Joe Butler grew up exploring midwestern forests and landscapes. Holding a BS in Plant Sciences from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Joe’s horticultural experiences include home gardening, landscaping, botanical garden work, and plant virology. When he’s not writing about or working with plants, Joe can be found buried in a book, performing stand-up comedy, or eating nutritionally concerning amounts of peanut butter.
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