Overcup Oak

Illustration of overcup oak leaf.
Safety Concerns
Scientific Name
Quercus lyrata
Fagaceae (oaks)

Overcup oak is 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.
Where To Find
image of Overcup Oak distribution map
Restricted to southeastern Missouri bottomlands and a few localities in east-central Missouri, particularly along the Mississippi and Meramec rivers. Cultivated statewide.
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.
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 beautiful fall color, makes an excellent landscaping tree for wet or low-lying areas.
Many animals eat the acorns. Trees 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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Similar Species

Where to See Species

This area contains one of the best quality examples of lowland swamp and bottomland forest in Missouri. A 76-acre portion of the area is designated as a Missouri Natural Area and is managed and protec
Seven Island Conservation Area is in Mississippi County,two miles southwest of the town of Dorena and 16 miles southeast of East Prairie.
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.