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White oak is a massive, long-lived stately tree with wide-spreading horizontal branches and wine-red fall color. This native tree provides shade for larger landscapes and parks.

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, 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 50-80 feet
  • Mature width 100 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Dry sites
  • Season of interest mid fall, late fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Broad, Irregular, Round
  • Growth rate Moderate, Slow
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Wildlife Game birds, Game mammals, Migrant birds, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat: 

White oak is native to the Chicago area, Illinois and North America.  C-Value: 5

Bark color and texture: 

The bark is gray to light tan, with thick overlapping plates or thick ridges. Often, large sections of bark on the trunk are smooth due to a harmless fungus called smooth patch.

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

The new leaves emerge pinkish, changing to dark green in summer and wine red in fall. The leaf margins are rounded. The lobes can be small or large.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Drooping, male catkins appear in April. Female flowers are inconspicuous tiny spikes in the axils of new leaves.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

The 1-inch long, single or paired nut is enclosed in an acorn with a warty cap. Acorns ripen in fall and can be considered a litter problem, especially near sidewalks and patios.

Plant care: 

White oak is the majestic state tree of Illinois. It is a long-lived tree for large landscapes and parks. It does not tolerate wet conditions, so it is best planted in well-drained sites. Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt. The roots are sensitive to soil disturbances, such as compaction and construction. It is difficult to transplant due to a taproot.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Oak wilt, anthracnose, two-lined chestnut borer, galls and scale are possible problems. It is tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Crimson Spire™ oak (Quercus ‘Crimschmidt’): 

A hybrid between English oak (Quercus robur)  and White oak (Quercus alba). It was selected for its narrow form (15 feet wide) and good red fall color. It is tolerant of a wide range of conditions

Streetspire® oak (Quercus robur x alba ‘JFS-KW1QX’):

A narrow, columnar cultivar growing 45 feet tall and only 14 feet wide. It is powdery mildew resistant and has red fall color.

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