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Black oak, a native of the Chicago region, could be used as a parkway or street tree. Fall color is yellow to yellow-brown. This species is not offered in commerce as often as other oak species. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Beech
  • Family (botanic) Fagaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 50-60 feet
  • Mature width 40-70 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Dry soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Irregular, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations May be difficult to find in nurseries, Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Wildlife Game birds, Game mammals, Migrant birds, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat:

Black oak is native to the Chicago region. It is commonly found in dry sites. C-Value: 6

Bark color and texture:

Black oak bark is ridged and furrowed. It is very dark to almost black at maturity.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Simple, alternate leaves with moderately deep sinuses and bristle-tipped lobes are up to 10 inches long. Leaf color is dark green in summer, changing to yellow or yellow-brown in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

The male flowers of the tree are in dangling catkins. Female flowers are smaller and held close to the stem and are not ornamentally important.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The acorns are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long and topped with a slightly fringed cap. They are borne singly or in pairs.

Plant care:

Black oak can be difficult to transplant due to a deep taproot. Though tolerant of dry sites, this species cannot withstand severe drought. Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.

List of pests and diseases:

Oak wilt is a potential disease problem with black oak. Insect pests include scale and two-lined chestnut borer. Galls on leaves caused by mites or insects are common, but not harmful. It is tolerant of black walnut toxicity.


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