The archetypal oak grows large and spreads wide, with muscular, near-horizontal lower branches that seem to defy gravity. But the group’s 500 species, all native to the Northern Hemisphere, also include upright, pyramidal, and shrubby oaks; in fact, “chaparral” comes from chaparra—Spanish for a dwarf evergreen shrub oak. Oak leaves can be deciduous or evergreen (the latter are called live oaks); lobed, toothed, or smooth edged; but they’re always arranged in an alternate pattern along stems. Some have terrific fall color. All oaks produce inconspicuous flowers followed by acorns, whose single nuts have cuplike caps covered with closely set scales. Some kinds of acorns are edible and sweet, while others are bitter and unpalatable.
Oaks come in two broad categories: white oaks have acorns that mature during the season in which they are produced, and often have leaves with rounded lobes; red and black oaks have acorns that take two seasons to mature, and often have leaves with pointed lobes. Each group can hybridize only within itself.Quercus coccinea
This deciduous tree can reach 60–80 ft. tall and 40–60 ft. wide. Pyramidal when young, round topped in maturity. Gray-brown bark is cracked into irregular plates. Bright green leaves are 3–6 in. long, with pointed, deeply cut lobes; turn scarlet where fall nights are cold. Rounded, 3/4–1-in. acorns are half-covered in a bowl-like cap.
Dependable selection typical of the species.
Native from India and Tibet east to Taiwan. Comes in many forms, from groundcovers to tall trees. The ...
Native from Vermont to Alabama, west to North Dakota, Wyoming, and New Mexico. This stout-stemmed plan...