Swamp Chestnut Oak (Basket Oak)

Illustration of swamp chestnut oak leaf.
Safety Concerns
Scientific Name
Quercus michauxii
Fagaceae (oaks)

Swamp chestnut oak is a medium to large tree with a wide, rounded crown and bark resembling that of white oak.

Leaves are alternate, simple, 4–8 inches long, broadest above the middle, margin with large, rounded or sometimes sharp teeth; tip pointed. Upper surface dark green, shiny, smooth; lower surface whitish, velvety; leaf stalk ¾ inch long. Leaves turn reddish- or yellowish-brown in fall.

Bark is light gray or tan, with scaly plates on mature trees; inner bark reddish.

Twigs are moderately stout, smooth, reddish-brown.

Flowers April–May, in catkins.

Fruits September–October, acorns solitary or in pairs; brown, shiny, broadest near the base, gradually tapering to a rounded tip, large, to 1½ inches long; cup covering a third to a half of the nut, bowl-shaped with matted silky hair, scales wedge-shaped, hard, stout, hairy, attached only at the base and overlapping, giving a somewhat fringed appearance. Nut sweet, edible; ripening in autumn of the first year.

Other Common Names
Cow Oak
Height: to 100 feet.
Where To Find
image of Swamp Chestnut Oak Basket Oak distribution map
A southern species, its range barely extends into Missouri; it is found only in our far southeastern counties.
Occurs in moist soils of bottomland forests in large valleys and depressions, bordering slow-moving streams, sloughs, and swamps; in Missouri, found principally in the southeastern (Bootheel) lowlands.
This tree is also called basket oak, because the wood splits easily into long strips and is excellent for making baskets. The acorn is one of the sweetest of all the oaks and can be eaten raw. Also called cow oak because cattle particularly relish the nuts. This tree was also used medicinally.
Oak acorns fall to the forest floor and contribute to what is called "hard mast," the various nuts that are eaten by wildlife. Hard mast is particularly important as a fall and winter food for many game species, including turkey and deer. Years with less hard mast result in lower wildlife numbers.
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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
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.