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Bur OakQuercus macrocarpa

  • Bur Oak - Quercus macrocarpa
  • Bur Oak - Quercus macrocarpa
  • Bur Oak - Quercus macrocarpa
  • Bur Oak - Quercus macrocarpa
  • Bur Oak - Quercus macrocarpa

The bur oak is a mighty sight to behold. A coarsely textured crown, wild and wooly acorns and a massive trunk with rough and deeply furrowed bark combine to make one impressive tree. But really, those characteristics helped this oak survive the elements of its wide-reaching natural range. In fact, the natural bur oak range is the northern- and western- most of all the eastern oak species.

While its massive size counts this tree out for most urban and suburban yards, the bur oak make a great choice for parks, institutional grounds and expansive yards.

Hardiness Zones

The bur oak can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 3–8. View Map

Tree Type

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

Mature Size

The bur oak grows to a height of 70–80' and a spread of around 80' at maturity.

Growth Speed Slow Growth Rate

This tree grows at a slow rate, with height increases of less than 12" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The bur oak grows well in acidic, alkaline, loamy, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils. While it prefers moderate moisture, the tree has some drought tolerance.


This tree:
  • Offers dense shade.
  • Tolerates pollution and heat stress.
  • Features alternating leaves that are 6–12" long with 5–9 lobes separated about halfway down by a pair of particularly deep sinuses.
  • Yields acorns that are larger than most others, with a conspicuously fringed cap that extends about halfway down the nut.
  • Lives for more than 200–300 years.
  • Is also known as the mossycup oak.
  • Grows in a rounded shape.
  • Is difficult to transplant.

Wildlife Value

Bur oak acorns are the preferred food for wood ducks, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, rabbits, mice, squirrels and other rodents.


Bur oaks are the dominant trees that grace Arbor Day Farm and the hills and valleys surrounding Nebraska City. There, on the banks of the lower Missouri River, this magnificent oak is close to the heart of its natural range. It is the most western of the eastern oaks, extending all the way to the foothills of the Rockies where it is reduced to a shrub. In pioneer days on the plains, it came to the rescue of unfortunate travelers who needed new wagon tongues, wheel hubs or spokes. Sioux City, Iowa, is the location of the Council Oak, so named because Lewis and Clark held council with the Native Americans under its already 150-year-old branches.