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Common Oak Trees: Oak Tree Identification Guide For Gardeners

Woodworkers and How to Identify the 12 Oaks Commonly Found in Together With their Characteristics, Uses and Benefits An oak is any tree belonging to the genus Quercus, of which about 600 species exist on earth.

The common name “oak” may also appear as “white oak”, for example, as in white oak furniture or white oak flooring, although it refers not to a separate species but to one with pale-colored wood.

Oak Trees Information

Oak trees are recognized worldwide as very hardy plants – capable of withstanding centuries if left undisturbed. As oaks have evolved over millennia they have seen many changes in climate, moving from humid equatorial climates towards colder temperate conditions, and they can still be found in their original habitat. There are indeed a few species that have been able to adapt quite well to man-made habitats.

This means that oaks are an excellent choice for planting in urban areas because of their prodigious resistance to pollution, soil compaction, crowding by buildings etc., but also due to the host of beneficial properties inherent in oak wood itself.

Oak trees are evergreen , meaning that they do not shed all their leaves for winter dormancy as deciduous trees do – instead remaining fully green all year round until the next growing season commences. Oaks may thus remain healthy despite very high levels of air pollution or partial shade.

Types Of Oak Trees

The leaves of the oak are divided into two types: .

  • Oak leaves can be either deciduous (falling seasonally) or evergreen (persisting indefinitely).
  • The leaves of some oaks – specifically the white oaks – remain attached to the twigs throughout winter until they abscise for springtime.
  • There are also a few examples of oaks that do sometimes shed their leaves in autumn, but these species are the exception rather than the rule.

Characteristics : Acorns

Shape : Acorn Cupule With Strap-shaped Lobes That Form A Cup.

Fruit : Oval And Pointed With Scales Covering The Nut, Sometimes A Tip Of The Nut Is Bare Called An ‘acorn’.

Leaves : Lobed With Ridges That Are The Same Color As The Leaf.

Twigs : Many Furry And The Buds Are Made Of Scales.

Bark : Has Deep Furrows, Sometimes Quite Plated Or Splitted In Some Way.

Oak twigs are hairy with buds that are very small (1-2mm) and scaly like all Quercus but for two exceptions: the pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), which is fairly easy to identify by the long petiole present on some of its leaves; and the sessile oak (Quercus petraea), which has no stalks/flowers on any of its leaves.


Oak acorns are often the only way to tell apart similar species, as they can be quite variable – from globose to elliptical or oval, sometimes with a cap at the top, and from light-brown to nearly black in color.

White oak acorns have a slight point on their apex and hairy cups with strap-shaped lobes that form a cup around the base of the acorn. The fruit is enclosed in a scaly cupule about 3-4.5 cm long. This distinguishes white oaks from pin oaks which have bristly cups without caps and black oaks which have prickly cups with straight sides where as red oaks have no bristles at all but instead have smooth edges. Oak acorns mature in 1 or 2 years and drop shortly after the spring of their second year. Acorns are produced from mid-April to May.

Most Common Oak Trees By Species

  1. White Oak, Quercus alba
  2. Pin Oak, Quercus palustris
  3. Scarlet Oak, Quercus coccinea
  4. Post Oak, Quercus stellata
  5. Shumard Oak, Quercus shumardii
  6. Red oak, Quercus rubra
  7. Lance-Leaved/Sickle-Leaved Swamp White Oak, Quercus falcata var. pagodaefolia – Southern Half of Eastern US & Eastern Mexico From Florida To Texas And North Into Kentucky and Tennessee.
  8. Sessile or Durand Oak, Quercus petraea
  9. Southern Red Oak, Quercus falcata – Much of Australia.

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In Summary

Oaks are an evergreen tree that bear acorns that mature in one to two years and leave a long-lasting characteristic on the ground after falling from their tree.

Oaks have deep furrows and scaly bud-scales on their twigs with large lobed leaves, although some may have smooth edges or no bristles at all.

Most oaks come from North America but can be found worldwide wherever there is a climate for them to survive in. All oak trees bear acorns except white oaks.

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