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Quercus palustris
Quercus palustris

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Zones 2-10, 14-24, 28-41
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Quercus palustris

Pin Oak, Swamp Oak
Fagaceae
Deciduous, Trees

QUERCUS

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 palustris

This deciduous tree has moderate to fairly rapid growth to 50–80 ft. tall and 30–40 ft. wide. Brownish gray bark with shallow ridges and furrows. Pyramidal in youth, with lower branches sweeping downward. If you remove those branches to gain walking space, the limbs above will simply bend into the same position—so wait to remove lower limbs until the tree is mature and has formed an open, rounded top. Glossy dark green leaves are 3–6 in. long, deeply cut into bristle-pointed lobes; in brisk fall weather, leaves turn yellow, red, and finally russet brown. Much of the dead foliage hangs on in winter. Nearly round acorns to 3/4 in. across are enclosed by about a third in a saucer-shaped, fuzzy cap. Less tolerant of dry conditions than most oaks. Develops chlorosis in alkaline soils. Unlike most native Western oaks, it is a fine tree for growing in lawns.

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