Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Handsome White Oak

One of my favorite trees in our neighborhood

Large white oak growing in a front yard

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

2 comments -- please add yours:

Chris M said...

White oak acorns are the least bitter of all the oak mast.
Hmm...I have a great desire to try white oak acorns now.

Genevieve said...

Chris, if you do try them, let us know how it goes. :)

The native Americans and early settlers did eat them. I have read that the acorns can be shelled, boiled and eaten. Here is a recipe for making acorn flour and acorn pancakes. Or just google "acorn flour" and you'll find some interesting recipes.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927)

Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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