Content Detail

Swamp white oak is a striking tree with attractive peeling bark, which is especially prevalent on young trees. The lustrous, lobed leaves have a two-tone appearance, dark green on top with a silvery-white underside. Fall color is an orange-gold to yellow in mid-autumn. An excellent shade tree for any landscape.

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; Oak
  • Family (botanic) Fagaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Restricted sites, 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 50-60 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites, Occasional drought, Occasional flooding, Road salt, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, midwinter, mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Broad, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Wildlife Game birds, Game mammals, Migrant birds, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Size and form:

Swamp white oak is a broad, rounded tree that matures to a height and width of 50 to 60 feet.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to northeastern North America including Chicago. C-Value: 6.

Attracts birds and pollinators:

Migrant birds are attracted to it.

Bark color and texture:

Mature bark is a dark gray-brown with blocky ridges. Young trees develop a flaky, peeling bark that reveals an orange inner bark.

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

Alternate, simple, rounded to coarsely lobed leaves have variable wavy margins. Dark green above with silvery-white undersides, they turn to golden or orange-brown in fall.

Flower description:

Male flowers hang in clusters of catkins. Female flowers are inconspicuous, tiny spikes in leaf axils.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Acorns are 1 inch long and enclosed halfway with a warty cap. The cap often remains attached to a stalk (peduncle) once the fruit is ripe and falls from the tree.  

Plant care:

Swamp white oak is one of the easiest oaks to transplant and is more tolerant of poor drainage than other oaks. Plant in full sun. Avoid high pH soils or plants may develop chlorotic (yellowing) leaves. Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

It is susceptible to anthracnose, occasional powdery mildew, chlorosis in high pH soils, insect galls and oak wilt. Tolerant of salt, drought once established, heat, and black walnut toxicity.

This plant is a cultivar of a species that is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.

American Dream® swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor ‘JFS-KW12’):

This cultivar has a broadly pyramidal shape and dark green foliage changing to yellow brown in fall. Good resistance to anthracnose and powdery mildew.

Related hybrids (between Quercus bicolor and Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata)

Kindred Spirit® Ware’s Oak (Quercus x warei ‘Nadler’):

A columnar cultivar, growing 40 feet high by 6 feet wide with red-orange fall color. It is drought and powdery mildew resistant.

Regal Prince® Ware’s Oak (Quercus x warei ‘Long’):

Narrow habit of 45 feet high and 20 to 25 feet wide with yellow fall color. It has an excellent resistance to borers and powdery mildew. 


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