Quercus alba 2017

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Latin Name

Quercus alba

Common Name

White Oak


"In spring, its unfurling leaves are rose-colored and mature into a dark green. This oak has fine fall color and its leaves persist into winter. It draws its name from its ash-colored bark." Growth habit: White oak has a characteristic huge, wide-spreading crown. The Querces alba grows to a height of 50 to 80 feet with a similar width. In the wild, it can reach a height of more than 100 feet."1,2 The tip of the branches have clustered buds. These produce acorn's. Older white oaks have exfoliating bark closer to the top near the canopy. They don't have bristled tips at the end of their lobes to distinguish from Red Oaks. The white oak acorns have less tannins for better flavored food, which supports other organisms in the forest.3

Leaf Photo

Note the tapered base and large gaps between the lobes (deeply lobed). The leaves are normally green to blue-green above and pale. Fall color ranges from brown to rich red.1 The leaves grow to be 5 to 8.5 inches (13–22 cm) long and 2.75 to 4.5 inches (7.0–11.4 cm) wide and have a deep glossy green upper surface. They usually turn red or brown in autumn, but depending on climate, site, and individual tree genetics, some trees are nearly always red, or even purple in autumn. Some brown, dead leaves may remain on the tree throughout winter until very early spring. The lobes can be shallow, extending less than halfway to the midrib, or deep and somewhat branching.4 The leaves 'alternate, are five to nine inches long, and three to four inches wide. They are obovate or oblong, seven to nine-lobed, usually seven-lobed with rounded lobes and rounded sinuses. The lobes don't have bristles. When full grown they are thin, bright yellow green, shiny or dull above, pale, glaucous or smooth below. The midrib is stout and yellow, primary veins are conspicuous. The petioles are short, stout, grooved, and flattened. The stipules are linear and caduceus.'5

Quercus alba green with Acorn.jpg

Seed Description

White oak Acorns have the highest moisture content of all acorns.6 The white oak seeds are typically produced in one season, versus two for other oaks. 'Unseasonal wet cold weather may interfere with pollination reducing acorn production or even causing a total crop failure. The acorn remains as a small immature acorn for most of the summer months. If extreme dry hot conditions persist over the summer these embryonic acorns may abort causing the loss of that years crop. About late summer/ mid August the acorn begins to rapidly enlarge to reach its maximum size in just a few short weeks.'7

Bud Description

The buds are clustered at the tips of the branches.3 The buds are sessile, in-between or just above the petiole. They have a brownish-purplish, bud, with noticeable grayish-bluish, overlapping sepalish designs.8

Flower Description

The flowers appear in May, when leaves are one-third grown. The calyx is bright yellow, hairy, six to eight-lobed, with lobes shorter than the stamens. The anthers are yellow. Pistillate flowers are borne on short peduncles. The stigmas are bright red.9

Bark/Stem Description

The bark is usually lighter in color, and is often described as beautiful. Source: 'Additional information'.1 Older white oaks have exfoliating bark closer to the top near the canopy.3 "Light gray, varying to dark gray and to white; shallow fissured and scaly. Branchlets at first bright green, later reddish-green and finally light gray. A distinguishing feature of this tree is that a little over halfway up the trunk the bark tends to form overlapping scales that are easily noticed and aid in identification."9

Querces Alba Bark near Canopy.png

Querces Alba Bark Trunk Base.png

Other Information

The white oak typically lives 200-300 years, with one known to live 450 years when it passed due to a storm.10 Another is noted to live 600 years.11 Sexual maturity begins at around 20 years, but the tree does not produce large crops of acorns until its 50th year and the amount varies from year to year.

Distinguishing Characteristics

'The bark of the white oak is light gray and fissured into scaly ridges. The leaves have unique characteristics. The oblong leaves can be from 4 to 9 inches long, and be deeply or shallowly lobed with 5 to 9 lobes. When mature, the leaves are bright green above and pale or whitish on the underside. They can turn to deep red in autumn, but they will fade into shades of brown. The acorns measure 3/4 to 1 inch long, and they will have a shallow cup.12

Collection Location on GGC’s Campus

This tree is located where the two paths from Lonnie Harvel Blvd., across from the back side of Building 'B' converge. Walk approximately 200 feet North and West bound at the path, until reaching: Querces Alba Location.png


"Q. alba is fairly tolerant of a variety of habitats, and may be found on ridges, in valleys, and in between, in dry and moist habitats, and in moderately acid and alkaline soils. It is mainly a lowland tree, but reaches altitudes of 5,249 ft in the Appalachian Mountains. It is often a component of the forest canopy in an oak-heath forest."13

Historic Range

Querces alba is native to eastern and central North America and found from Minnesota, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia south as far as northern Florida and eastern Texas.14

Range Map

Quercus alba range map 1.png16

Cultural Information

The taste of the white oak acorn is preferred over the red oak acorn's, since they have less tannins. Also, wildlife such as squirrel's store and eat white oak acorn's.3 White oak barrels are often used for making bourbon (federal regulation) and aging wine, since they leak less. Other uses include wooden flooring and martial arts practice swords.15


1 http://www.uky.edu/hort/White-Oak 2 http://www.uky.edu/hort/sites/www.uky.edu.hort/files/pages-attachments/QUERCALBprint.pdf 3 Source: Dr. Caspary, 3/20/17, Wiki plant species walk. 4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_alba#cite_note-3 5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_alba#cite_note-tammy-11 6 http://www.acorno.com/white-oak-tree-seeds 7 http://www.whiteoaknursery.biz/essays/growing_whiteoak.shtml 8 http://bioimages.vanderbilt.edu/baskauf/15641.htm 9 http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=233501007 10 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wye_Oak 11 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_alba#cite_note-3 12 http://www.parlierwoodturning-classic.com/white_oak_characteristics.html 13 https://web.archive.org/web/20110105224138/http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/ncTIIIe.shtml 14 http://bonap.net/MapGallery/County/Quercus%20alba.png 15 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_alba 16 https://esp.cr.usgs.gov/data/little/queralba.pdf

This page was created by:

Rahul Bakane

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