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White OakQuercus alba

  • White Oak - Quercus alba
  • White Oak - Quercus alba
  • White Oak - Quercus alba

Respected 20th century naturalist Donald Peattie once said, “If oak is the king of trees, as tradition has it, then the white oak, throughout its range, is the king of kings.” It is a bold statement to be sure, but many agree with him. Perhaps this is why it is the state tree of Connecticut, Illinois and Maryland.

This beautiful tree can be found presiding over pastures, providing shade in urban parks and suburban neighborhoods and thriving in natural stands throughout the eastern United States and southeastern Canada.


Hardiness Zones

The white oak can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 3–9. View Map

Tree Type

This is a shade tree, featuring a spreading canopy capable of blocking sunlight.

Mature Size

The white oak grows to a height of 50–80' and a spread of 50–80' at maturity.

Growth Speed Slow to Medium Growth Rate

This tree grows at a slow to medium rate, with height increases of anywhere from less than 12" to 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of 4 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The white oak prefers slightly acidic to neutral, deep, moist, well-drained soil. While adaptable to other soil textures, it is intolerant of alkaline, shallow or abused urban soils. It can, however, tolerate moderate drought and occasional wet soil.

Attributes

This tree:
  • Provides great fall color, with leaves turning showy shades of red or burgundy.
  • Develops notably strong branches.
  • Can live for centuries.
  • Features alternating leaves that are 4–8" long with 3–4 rounded, finger-like lobes on each side and one at the tip. Intervening sinuses sometimes reach almost to the mid-rib.
  • Produces long, yellowish-green catkins drooping in clusters in the spring.
  • Yields acorns that are up to 1" long with warty cap that covers about ¼ of the nut.
  • Grows in an oval or rounded shape.
  • Develops a deep taproot, making it difficult to transplant.
  • Is extremely sensitive to soil compaction and grade changes.

Wildlife Value

The acorns are one of the best sources of food for wildlife and are gathered, hoarded and eaten by birds, hoofed browsers and rodents. Leaf buds also are eaten by several bird species, and all parts of the tree are a favorite food for deer.

History/Lore

The white oak forever earned its place in history books when it was combined with other oak lumber to build the famous USS Constitution (also known as “Old Ironsides”). And even in World War II, white oak served our country as the keels of mine sweepers and patrol boats.

It was (and still is) also preferred wood for those beautiful wooden barrels found in wineries and whiskey distilleries across the United States. Why? Strength and durability are important factors, but this choice is also due to microscopic tissues called tyloses that ‘plug’ the vascular cells of the wood, sealing in the barrel’s liquid contents.