Nuttall's Oak

Illustration of Nuttall’s oak leaf.
Species of Conservation Concern
Scientific Name
Quercus texana
Fagaceae (oaks)

Nuttall's oak is a medium to large-sized tree with a rounded, open crown of spreading branches.

Leaves are alternate, simple, 3–6 inches long, widest above the middle; usually with 7 narrow, long-pointed lobes with 1–5 bristle-tipped teeth; notches between lobes rounded and wide. Upper surface dull green, smooth; lower surface paler with tufts of hairs in the vein axils; leaf stalk rather slender, smooth, ¾–2 inches long.

Bark is gray-brown, smooth; becoming blackish, shallow-grooved and with flat, scaly ridges with age.

Twigs are slender, smooth, green to reddish-brown, turning gray with age.

Flowers April–May, in catkins.

Fruits September–October; acorns solitary or paired, dark brown, usually striped the length of the nut, 1 inch long, oblong; cup covering one-third to five-eighths of the nut, thin, hairy, sloping or stalked at the base, scales small and flattened. Acorns ripen in autumn of the second year.

Height: to 80 feet.
Where To Find
image of Nuttall's Oak distribution map
Southeastern Missouri (the Bootheel); may be cultivated elsewhere. May hybridize with pin oak (Quercus palustris) where their ranges overlap.
In our state, this species grows naturally on the poorly drained clay flats and low, wet bottomland forests of the Bootheel. With its limited range, and with steady destruction of its habitat, it has become rare and imperiled within our borders.
A Species of Conservation Concern; rare and imperiled in our state because it lives only in the wet bottomlands in southeastern Missouri, and that habitat has been dwindling as land is drained and converted to crops. The North American range of this species centers along the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico to the Missouri Bootheel, west along the border between Louisiana and Arkansas, and east into Alabama.
The lumber is often cut and sold as "red oak" (it is a member of the broad "red oak group" and shares many characteristics with the oaks in that group). This is one of the few commercially important trees that grow in the poorly drained floodplains along the lower Mississippi. The name of this tree honors Thomas Nuttall, a biologist who traveled extensively in North America, including the western United States up the Missouri, only five years after Lewis and Clark's trip. Because most of Lewis and Clark's biological specimens were lost, Nuttall collected many plants that were completely new to science. Nuttall also wrote one of the first complete bird manuals of North America.
Nuttall's oak is a heavy mast producer; "mast" is the term for hard-shelled fruits (nuts) that fall to the forest floor. A variety of wildlife, including many game species such as deer and turkey, rely on mast for winter food. Like all oaks, this species provides homes for a great many animals.
Media Gallery
Similar Species

Where to See Species

About Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines in Missouri
There are no sharp dividing lines between trees, shrubs, and woody vines, or even between woody and nonwoody plants. “Wood” is a type of tissue made of cellulose and lignin that many plants develop as they mature — whether they are “woody” or not. Trees are woody plants over 13 feet tall with a single trunk. Shrubs are less than 13 feet tall, with multiple stems. Vines require support or else sprawl over the ground.