Content Detail

Swamp chestnut oak provides dense shade and good red fall color. It is useful as a parkway or as a shade tree in residential yards. It can be difficult to find in nurseries. 

  • 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 Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 60-100 feet
  • Mature width 40-60 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites, Occasional flooding
  • Season of interest mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Oval, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations May be difficult to find in nurseries, Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Wildlife Browsers, Game birds, Migrant birds, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars No

Size and form:

Swamp chestnut oak is a large 60 to 100 foot height and 40 to 60 width tree with an oval form.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is a native the southeastern United States. Commonly found in well-drained bottomlands and flood plains. In Illinois, this species is native only in a few southern counties.

Attracts birds, pollinators and mammals:

It attracts migrant birds, small mammals and game birds. 

Bark color and texture:

Bark is light in color, gray to silvery-gray. It is thin and platy on mature trees.

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

The simple, alternate, obovate leaves are up to 8 inches long with coarsely serrated margins. Medium green on the upper leaf surface and white and hairy on the lower surface, they change to red in the fall.

Flower description:

Male flowers are in dangling catkins while female flowers are smaller and held close to the stem. They are not ornamentally important.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Acorns are 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, with a bowl-shaped cap that covers about one-third of the nut. 

Plant care:

Despite its name, this tree does not prefer to grow in wet areas. It prefers a moist, well-drained soil and is able to tolerate dry sites as well. It is relatively easy to transplant. Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

Galls caused by mites or insects are common, but are not harmful. Other insect pests include scale insects and two-lined chestnut borer. Oak wilt is a potentially serious disease.


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