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

Friday, January 4, 2008

Bur oak favored by Minnesota tree experts

Quercus macrocarpa, a favorite Minnesota tree

Cliff Johnson, a Master Gardener and writer from Minnesota, took an informal survey of some Minnesota horticulturists, nursery owners, arborists, etc., asking this question:
“Assume you have moved into a new home and yard with adequate space and sunlight, good drainage and okay soil. What one large tree and one small tree would you plant in your new yard, and why?" (Source)

I'm pleased that Johnson reports a unanimous vote for bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) as the favorite large tree. It's one of my favorite trees as well. We have about half a dozen bur oaks planted in our yard, that we grew from acorns gathered from my husband's childhood home. ("Sentimental" only begins to describe my husband's attachment to these trees.)

Johnson's panel of experts mentioned several other trees that are North American natives or cultivars thereof:

  • Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor)
  • 'Shademaster' honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis)
  • 'Autumn Purple' white ash (Fraxinus americana)
  • Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus)

One quality that the experts liked about several of these trees was their appearance in winter. Truly, that's important to consider if you live in an area where the trees are leafless for several months in cold weather. A tree with a rugged, interesting form is a joy to behold during the bleak months of winter -- especially when the tree's structure is highlighted by snow on its branches.

Quercus macrocarpa at the
Heard Natural Science Museum,
McKinney, TX. Photo by Flickr
user Bonita La Banane
Image: A handsome, mature bur oak on Holly Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Resource: Cliff Johnson, the Minnesota Master Gardener who wrote the article I've been discussing, has a great website, "Putting Down Roots" where you can read dozens of his gardening columns.

I came across this Johnson article at the Shakopee (MN) Valley News. I went to Johnson's website to try to locate the true source of the article. Half an hour later, I still can't say if the article came from there. I got caught up in reading other interesting things!

Related: Article about a bur oak in Plano, Texas. Bur oaks are native to areas with an amazing variety of growing conditions, from north to south in the eastern and central U.S.!

3 comments -- please add yours:

Scott said...

I've always liked Bur oak. It is usually one of the dominate trees in the woods where I hike.

Here is a link of some articles I wrote about Bur oak.


Genevieve said...

I enjoyed the photos, Scott.

Oak Leaf said...

I will have a agree about the Burr Oak. She looks just lovely in the Summer too with her fiddle shaped leaves with the silvery undersides. Her crown just shimmers on a windy day. I love the sound of the acorns clacking against a hard surface as they fall. These trees can live up to a 1000 years. If you are blessed enough to have one in your yard, she will probably out live your house.

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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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