White Oak Seedlings
White oak trees (quercus alba) are naive to the eastern part of North America and thrive in hardiness zones. The tree can tolerate both acidic and alkaline soil and prefers soils that are damp. It’s planted for its dense shade and sometimes the canopy can be as wide as the tree is tall. Because of this, the tree needs a lot of space to grow. The tree grows quite slowly, probably less than a foot a year. It’s hardly in any hurry to grow! The white oak is one of the longest lived trees in America, and can live for hundreds of years.
The leaves of white oaks are about eight inches long and three inches wide and have about seven lobes, three or four on each side. When they first appear in the spring they’re a tender red and then become pale green. They mature to a bright, light green. The bark is light gray, which gives the tree its name. As the tree grows, the scales of the bark start to overlap close to the top of the trunk, which helps in identifying the tree.
The heartwood of the white oak is light brown. Oak wood is notoriously tough, beautiful and resists rot. Because of this, the wood is used to make a variety of things, including flooring, furniture and boats. The tree flowers in mid spring. The acorns, which appear in the fall, are oval, with heavy, scaly caps that cover about a quarter of the nut. The acorns are edible and used to be ground up by Native Americans to make meal. Wildlife also love the acorns of the white oak, which aren’t as bitter as the acorns of other oak species. Deer, rabbits and squirrels eat the acorns as do game birds like turkey and pheasants and songbirds like thrushes and nuthatches. The white oak is also the only food plant of the Bucculatricidae moth.
The white oak really comes into its own during the fall. Along with producing its acorns, its leaves, depending on the conditions, can turn brilliant red. Sometimes dead leaves cling to the tree throughout the winter and are finally pushed to the ground by the new leaves.