How to Identify a White Oak Tree

How to Identify a White Oak Tree
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The white oak (Quercus alba) is one of our most stately and beautiful trees and it is found over most of the eastern United States. It can grow to reach heights of well over 100 feet and ages of 500 years or more. The wye oak and charter oak in eastern America are notable examples of white oaks. The bark is nearly always a very light color and the distinctive deeply lobed leaves are easy to spot. White oaks can reach very large diameters. The wood is excellent for furniture making, construction and wood fires. Grab your field book, notebook and binoculars and hit the woods to identify this royal member of America's forests.

    Look at the bark. White oak trees have bark that is off-whitish to ashy gray in color. It can be very scaly and platelike. Older trees often have patches of nearly smooth bark.

    Look at the leaves. The leaves of the white oak are deeply lobed and the tips of the lobes will all be rounded. In fall the leaves of an entire tree will be a scarlet or purple.

    Split the wood. It will split straight, but only with effort, since the wood is tough and heavy.

    Look for acorns. White Oak acorns are about 3/4 in. long.


    • White oaks, though beautiful, grow slowly and so are not often planted as landscaping trees. Trees of the red oak family generally grow faster.

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