Swamp White Oak

Quercus bicolor
Fagaceae (oaks)

A medium-sized tree with an open, irregular, rounded crown, ascending upper branches and pendulous lower branches.

Leaves alternate, simple, 4–7 inches long, widest above the middle; margin with lobes or large, rounded teeth, or both, some of the side veins not ending in teeth; upper surface dark green, shiny; lower surface downy-whitish.

Bark brownish; gray to dark brown with age; grooves deep, ridges broad, flattened and loosely curling at the ends, appearing rough; bark on larger branches often peeling.

Twigs stout, short, reddish-brown, smooth; older twigs with peeling bark.

Flowers April–May, in catkins.

Fruits September–October, acorns ¾–2½ inches long, in clusters of 1–3, on slender, dark stalks about 2½ inches long; nut light brown, about uniformly wide, about 1 inch long, tip pointed, hairy; cup covering to ½ the nut, light brown, with fine, woolly hair; scales flattened, sometimes with a short fringe on the border; seeds edible; ripen in the first year.

Height: to 80 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in moist bottomland forests in valleys and on rich, lower slopes, in wet ground bordering swamps and oxbow lakes of floodplain and stream meanders, and along streams. Despite its name, this species does not grow in swamps; instead, it lives in low, wet, sometimes poorly drained soils. This tree can live for 350 years; it begins to flower at 25–30 years of age. In cultivation, it can withstand drought conditions once established, though alkaline soils can cause undernourishment.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Grows sparsely in the northern two-thirds of the state, but also found in the Ozarks. Most prevalent in our northeastern sections.
Human connections: 
A handsome shade tree, swamp white oak grows relatively quickly and can live for centuries. The wood is used for general construction, furniture, cabinets, veneer, interior finishes, fence posts and fuel. The bicolored leaves flash white during updrafts preceding summer storms.
Ecosystem connections: 
Many animals eat the plump, sweet acorns, including blue jay, woodpeckers, wood duck, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, bobwhite, mice, squirrels, raccoon and white-tailed deer. Many of these animals scratch, pick and poke at the forest floor all winter long for these acorns.
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