Swamp White Oak

Illustration of swamp white oak leaf.
Scientific Name
Quercus bicolor
Fagaceae (oaks)

Swamp white oak is a medium-sized tree with an open, irregular, rounded crown, ascending upper branches, and pendulous lower branches.

Leaves are 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 is 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 are 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.

Other Common Names
Swamp Oak
Height: to 80 feet.
Where To Find
image of Swamp White Oak distribution map
Grows sparsely in the northern two-thirds of the state, but also found in the Ozarks. Most prevalent in our northeastern sections.
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.
The species name, bicolor (two-colored), refers to the contrasting colors on the two sides of each leaf, shiny dark green on the upper surface, whitish-fuzzy on the underside. Donald Culross Peattie said this oak "proclaims its . . . identity at a glance and at a distance. At least it does so if there is any free wind . . . , for on the slightest provocation this beauty among the Oaks shows its white flounced petticoats."
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 the updrafts preceding summer storms.
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.
Media Gallery
Similar Species

Where to See Species

This area contains 1,625 acres, including bottomland timber in the Missouri River and Bonne Femme Creek corridors, permanent grasses on the levees and some agricultural fields, portions of which are l
Mint Springs CA is across the highway from Mint Springs Access in Gasconade County. Forests in this area are dominated by white oak and hickory with dogwood and serviceberry in the understory.
In 1989, 200 acres of the area's 259 acres were donated to the Conservation Department. An additional 59 acres were purchased in 2008 to improve access to Spring Creek.
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.