In addition to being big, beautiful and long-lived trees, oak trees are keystone plants that host and feed a lot of native wildlife in North America. In this post, we’ll look at several species of oak that you should consider planting.
Quercus Alba – White Oak
Native to eastern and central North America and found in Ontario and Quebec in Canada and from southern Maine to northern Florida and over to eastern Texas. Some are known to be 450 years old.
Bark is light grey to white. Reaches heights of 80 to 100 feet, and has a comparable spread, providing a massive canopy. Produces acorns at around age 50. Probably better as a backyard tree away from salted roads. Here’s a big list of bugs that like this plant.
Quercus Bicolor – Swamp White Oak
This one grows rapidly and can reach 60 to 80 feet. As the name implies, it can tolerate damper soils and is found on the edge of waterways and low lying areas. Native to Ontario, Quebec and the Northeastern United States. Here’s the insects it supports.
Quercus Macrocarpa – Bur Oak
Native to eastern North America, also known as mossycup oak, mossycup white oak, blue oak, or scrub oak. Produces large acorns, which are important for a variety of animals. Grows up to 100 feet and produces massive, thick trunks up to 10 feet in diameter. Things that like to live in bur oaks.
Quercus Muhlenbergii – Chinkapin or Chinquapin Oak
Native to eastern and central North America, and in Canada, found only in southern Ontario. Has especially sweet and tasty acorns. Grows 40′-50′ high with a similar spread under landscaping conditions, or 70′-80′ high in the wild. Fussy about shade, this one would great in a full sun location. Not quite as many bugs nomming on this one as the others, but might be more suitable for smaller suburban locations.
Quercus palustris – Pin Oak or Swamp Spanish Oak
Grows up to about 70′ tall with a three foot diameter trunk. Has a distinctive canopy, with leaves pointing up at the top, out in the middle of the tree, and down at the bottom of the tree. Fast growing tree, with a lifespan of about 120 years. Prefers acidic soil, and has a short, fibrous root network. Here’s what likes the pin oak.
Quercus Rubra – Northern Red Oak
A native of North America, in the eastern and central United States and southeast and south-central Canada. In full sun, grows quickly to up to 20 feet tall, and can live for 400 years. As the name implies, leaves are a pretty red colour in the autumn. Feeds a lot of critters.
Quercus shumardii – shumard oak
Also known as spotted oak, Schneck oak, Shumard red oak, or swamp red oak. Grows up to 115 feet tall, trunk diameter gets to be about 40 inches. Songbirds like the acorns, so very important to improve your bird sightings! The Shumard is not a fussy tree, and can do well in most soils. Drought resistant and prefers partial to full sun. Insects that like the Shumard.
Quercus Velutina – Black Oak
Also called the eastern black oak, grows up to 80 feet tall and has a diameter of 35 inches. Grows best on grows best on well drained, silty clay to loam soils. Has a pleasant, tidy shape. Supports a lot of bugs.
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