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White OakQuercus alba

  • White Oak - Quercus alba
The white oak is a large, strong, imposing specimen. It has a short stocky trunk with massive horizontial limbs.The wide spreading branches form an upright, broad-rounded crown. The bark is light ashy gray, scaly or shallow furrowed, variable in appearance, often broken into small, narrow, rectangular blocks and scales.The leaves are dark green to slightly blue-green in summer, brown and wine-red to orange-red in the fall. The fall foliage is showy. Oaks are wind pollinated. Acorns are produced generally when the trees are between 50-100 years old. Open-grown trees may produce acorns are early as 20 years. Good acorn crops are irregular and occur only every 4-10 years. The white oak prefers full sun, but has a moderate tolerance to partial shade. It is more shade tolerant in youth, and less tolerant as the tree grows larger. It can adapt to a variety of soil textures, but prefers deep, moist, well-drained sites. High pH soil will cause chlorosis. Older trees are very sensitive to construction disturbances. The deep tap root can make transplanting difficult. Transplant when young. New transplants should receive plenty of water and mulch beneath the canopy to eliminate grass competition. Old oaks on upland sites can be troubled by sudden competition from and excessive irrigation of newly planted lawns. Their root zones must be respected for them to remain healthy. White oak is less susceptible to oak wilt than the red oak species.

Hardiness Zones

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

Tree Type

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 four 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.


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.


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.