Overcup Oak

Quercus lyrata
Fagaceae (oaks)

A medium-sized tree with an irregular crown, twisted branches and a swollen base when growing along the edges of swamps.

Leaves alternate, simple, 3–10 inches long, narrow but broadest above the middle, with 5–9 rounded lobes, middle lobes usually widest, often squarish, notch of lobes with various shapes, leaf tip rounded to pointed; leaves dark green and shiny above; light green and hairy beneath; turning yellow, brown or reddish in autumn.

Bark brownish-gray and rough, with large, irregular plates or ridges.

Twigs slender, angled (not circular in cross-section); green and hairy at first, becoming gray-brown and smooth with age.

Flowers April–May, in catkins.

Fruits September–October; acorns solitary or paired; nut light brown, globe-shaped, to 1 inch tall, more than ½ inch wide; cup deep, lacking fringes, nearly enclosing the entire nut; scales sometimes warty and ragged toward the tip, otherwise flattened. Seeds edible; acorns ripen the autumn of the first year.

Height: to 80 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in wet bottomland forests bordering swamps and in valleys with floodplain forests bordering the Mississippi and Meramec rivers. This tree is adapted to use seasonal floodwaters as a way to float acorns to new sites for dispersal. Slow-growing and long-lived, these attractive trees can also tolerate dryer conditions and are cultivated as shade trees for low areas.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Restricted to southeastern Missouri bottomlands and a few localities in east-central Missouri, particularly along the Mississippi and Meramec rivers. Cultivated statewide.
Human connections: 
Native Americans valued the astringent properties of oak bark and used it medicinally. The wood of this species is strong, hard, tough and durable—therefore quite valuable. This species, with its excellent fall color, makes an excellent landscaping tree for wet or low-lying areas.
Ecosystem connections: 
Many animals eat the acorns. Trees, by the way, create their own small habitats upon their surfaces and with their shade. Countless insects creep around on the bark. Many herbaceous (nonwoody) plants, including wildflowers, can only survive among the leaf litter on a shaded forest floor.
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