Plant Characteristics:

  • Tree: 80 to 100 ft tall; 3 to 4 ft in diameter
  • Bark: light grey, covered with loose layers overlapping each other from left to right or vice-versa.
  • Form: spreading crown if open grown or tall and narrow within a forest
  • Blooms: March to May
  • Buds: roundish 3-5 mm long, medium reddish-brown with some short hairs, and 2 to 3 scales
  • Twigs: smooth, green to red when young; turning reddish purple or reddish brown with pale dots (lenticels) when mature
  • Flowers: male flowers (staminate) are yellowish green hanging down on loose flower stalks 6-10 cm long (catkins); female flowers (pistillate) are reddish green in small spikes in the leaf axil (space between leaf stem and twig); appear as leaves are enlarging
  • Leaves: deciduous, alternate, simple, 4 to 7 in long; 7 to 10 rounded lobes, lobes can be deep almost reaching the midrib or shallow (about the same size); base is wedge shaped with a short stem (petiole) attaching it to the twig
  • Fruit type: nut; egg shaped or oblong acorn 3/4 in long; and light chestnut brown when ripe; cap is bowl shaped with warty scales and covers about a quarter of the nut; mature each year 
  • Fall Foliage: reddish-brown

Additional Details:

  • Wood is used for furniture, flooring, and wine or whiskey barrels.
  • Native Americans used the acorns for bread making. 
  • Acorns are a favorite food source for birds, squirrels, adn deer.
  • Twigs are browsed by deer, cottontail rabbit, gray squirrel and fox squirrel.
  • Larval host to the Edwards’ Hairstreak (Satyrium edwardsii)

The white oak is not shade tolerant. They don’t thrive in areas of poor drainage or alkaline soil. Old trees are sensitive to construction disturbance. The acorns will sprout without dormancy as soon as they fall from the tree in Autumn.

References:
Brown, R. and M. Brown. 1972. Woody Plants of Maryland. Port City Press, Baltimore, MD.
Foster, S. and J. Duke. 1990. A field guide to medicinal plants of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.
Grimm, W. C. and J. Kartesz. 2002. The Illustrated Book of Trees. Stackpole Books. Mechanicsburg, PA.
Harris, J. and M. Woolf Harris. 1994. Plant Identification Terminology: An illustrated Glossary. Spring Lake Publishing, Spring Lake, UT.
Peterson, L. 1977. A field guide to edible wild plants of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.
Virginia Department of Forestry. 2022. Common Native Trees of Virginia – Tree Identification Guide.