- Common Name(s):
- Possum oak, Water oak
- Native Plants, Poisonous Plants, Trees
Quercus nigra which is also known as a Water oak or possum oak, is a medium sized deciduous (sometimes semi-evergreen in southern areas) oak of the red oak group that typically grows in a conical form to 50-80’ tall with a broad rounded crown. Its trunk diameter extends to 3.5’. The brownish gray bark becomes grayish black with age with rough scaly ridging. Water oak is native primarily from New Jersey to Florida and Texas, extending northward along the Mississippi River valley to western Kentucky, southern Illinois and the Missouri bootheel. It is typically found in low woodland areas, floodplains and along streams and rivers. The water oak is easy to transplant. It's wood is weaker than most other oaks. It's branches droop. This tree is moderately salt tolerant.
Regions: Piedmont, Coastal Plains
Seasons of Interest:
Bloom: Early Spring Fruit/Seed/Nut: Fall
Wildlife Value: This tree is mildly resistant to damage by deer. Host plant for Banded Hairstreak, Edward's Hairstreak, Gray Hairstreak, White-M Hairstreak, Horace's Duskywing, Juvenal's Duskywing butterflies and many moths. Acorns are eaten by woodpeckers, blue jays, ducks, small mammals, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and black bears.
Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems: Water oak is a weak-wooded tree that is susceptible to trunk cankers and rots, all of which makes invulnerable to limb breakage from wind and winter snow/ice. Oaks, in general, are susceptible to a large number of diseases, including, chestnut blight, shoestring root rot, anthracnose, oak leaf blister, cankers, leaf spots and powdery mildew. This tree is highly susceptible to oak wilt. Potential insect pests include scale, oak skeletonizer, leaf miner, galls, oak lace bugs, borers, caterpillars and nut weevils.
Consider Planting Instead: Quercus rubra
- 50-75 ft.
- In the spring, cylindrical, male flowers and female spikes mature. The tree produces a 1/2-inch acorn with a flat, scaled cap that covers about 1/3 the nut. The acorn requires two growing seasons to reach maturity.
- The Water Oak is best grown in rich, humusy, acidic, medium to wet soils in full sun.
- Semi-conical to round; drooping branches
- Full sun
- Southeastern United States
- Poison Part:
- Acorns (seeds of nuts) and young leaves.
- Poison Delivery Mode:
- Stomach pain, constipation and later bloody diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination
- Acorns (nuts) are edible after tannins are leached or boiled out. Only collect nuts from areas you know.
- Toxic Principle:
- Gallotannins, quercitrin, and quercitin.
- CAUSES ONLY LOW TOXICITY IF EATEN.
- Found in:
- Forest or natural areas; landscape as ornamental and shade trees.
- 30-40 ft.
- Growth Rate:
- Moderate to rapid
- This tree has alternate leaves with smooth or bristle-tipped margins. Leaf shape is variable and may have 0 to 5 lobes. The leaves are dull bluish-green above and paler with pubescence beneath. Old leaves tend to drop in late fall to early winter, but may persist on the tree throughout most of the winter in the southern parts of the growing range (particularly within USDA Zones 8-9).
NCCES plant id: 2169