One of my favorite trees in our neighborhood
One of our neighbors has a beautiful, big white oak in his front yard. He didn't plant it. It has been growing for many, many years.
I knew an old man who was born in this house. He has passed away now, but if he were living, he would be about 90. He told me that the tree was there when he was a child, and it was a big tree then (at least to his little eyes.)
I took this photograph about ten years ago. Since then, our neighbor has torn down the old house and built a new house.
I was a little worried that the tree might be hurt during the construction, but I think it's going to be all right. It probably didn't have many roots where the new house was built, directly behind the site of the old house.
This is one of my favorite trees. Even though I don't own it, I enjoy seeing it and I have an affectionate concern for it.
According to Gary Hightshoe's Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America (see book info at the bottom of this column), one of the sites that the white oak (Quercus alba) likes is "moist, warm, south, or west facing slopes."
The white oak in the photo grows on a gentle slope that faces south, just above a river. In fact, the river is about 100 yards from the sign in the foreground of the photo. White oaks can't tolerate flooding, but even on the rare occasion that the river is out of its banks, this tree is far enough up the slope that it won't stand in water.
It's hard to guess how old it might be. White oaks are very slow growing , but they are very long-lived. They usually live 350 to 400 years, and they often live 500 years or more. Truly, when you plant a white oak, you plant it for your grandchildren and their grandchildren.
You could also say that you plant it for the birds and animals. White oak acorns are the least bitter of all the oak mast. They are a valuable food for a wide range of birds and animals. Even bears will eat white oak acorns.
Quercus alba info in the USDA Plants database
White oak info at the Virginia Tech. Dept of Forestry website