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Quercus bicolor is often confused with:
Quercus alba Full Form
Quercus michauxii Form of tree (Brazoria County, TX)-Early Fall
Quercus rubra Full Form
Quercus x 'Nadler' KINDRED SPIRIT® Quercus x Kindred Spirit
Native alternative(s) for Quercus bicolor:
Quercus alba Full Form
Quercus michauxii Form of tree (Brazoria County, TX)-Early Fall
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Quercus nigra Quercus nigra
Quercus stellata Quercus stellata, tree
Quercus alba Full Form
Quercus bicolor has some common insect problems:
Common Insect Pests of Oak in North Carolina
Oak Pest Management Calendar
Quercus bicolor has some common disease problems:
Common Disease Pests of Oak in North Carolina

Oaks Quercus bicolor

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Quercus velutina
Phonetic Spelling
KWER-kus BI-kul-er
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Swamp white oak is a native medium-sized deciduous tree growing 50 to 60 feet tall and approximately 50 to 60 feet wide with a broad to oval crown and a short trunk. Young trees have a pyramidal habit. The leaves are two-toned in color. The upper half is glossy, medium green to dark green, and the undersides are tomentose with a silvery white appearance. They also have rounded shallow lobes with coarse dentate teeth. This tree is also known for its bark which is thick and divided by furrows and ridges. Flowering occurs in the spring in the form of catkins and short spikes. Brown acorns appear in the fall. The swamp white oak tree is durable and long-living, up to 300 years. It is a member of the Fagaceae or beech family.

This tree is native to the Eastern and Central Midwest of the United States and portions of Canada. It is rare in North Carolina but may be found in about six counties in the Piedmont and only two counties in the Coastal Plain. Typically, the swamp white oak is found in swampy areas, lowlands, floodplains, and along streams and lakes.

The genus name, Quercus, is the Latin name for oak trees. The epithet, bicolor, references the two-tone or two-colors of the upper and lower surface of the leaves. 

Swamp White Oak prefers full sun, moist to wet acidic soil with a high mineral content, but it is adaptable to drier sites. Due to the root system, it is tolerant of areas that have spring flooding and fairly dry summers. It is tolerant of heat and drought, but sensitive to soil compaction, salt and air pollution. This tree is difficult to transplant and establish. It may also require pruning of lower branches where height clearance is needed.

The swamp white oak may often be confused with the white oak or chestnut oak. The swamp oak does not have deeply cut lobed leaves. The most distinctive feature of the swamp white oak is the branches peeling bark. It also produces a good acorn crop every 3 to 5 years that wildlife love to eat. The acorns are distinguishable by their long stalks.

The swamp oak is best planted in an area along a pond, a stream of other wet or low sites.

Seasons of Interest:

Bark:  Winter    Foliage: Summer and Fall     Fruits:  Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • the bark is thick, black to grayish brown, ridged, and furrowed, and exfoliates in flakes
  • branches peeling bark
  • leaves are medium to dark green above, silvery white beneath, oblong, lightly lobed with 6 to 10 pairs of coarse dentate teeth
  • insignificant male and female flowers in the form of catkins and spikes
  • the fruit is an acorn that is light brown to brown with cap that covers 1/3 of the nut and appear on long stalks

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Swamp white oak is susceptible to various insects and diseases, but none are serious. Diseases include anthracnose, canker leaf spots. rust, and blight. Potential insects include caterpillars, borers, leaf miners, oak lace bugs, and oak mites.  This tree is highly susceptible to oak wilt. Chlorosis may occur when the pH level is too high. 

VIDEO created by Grant L. Thompson for “Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines for Landscaping” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'American Dream' (trademarked) or 'JFS=KW12'
    resistant to anthracnose and powdery mildew
'American Dream' (trademarked) or 'JFS=KW12'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#fall interest#street tree#showy fruits#small mammals#food source wildlife#fire low flammability#NC native#deer resistant#acorns#nighttime garden#oak tree#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#wet soils tolerant#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#moth larvae#problem for horses#black walnut toxicity tolerant#Audubon#banded hairstreak butterfly#gray hairstreak butterfly#imperial moth#juvenal’s duskywing butterfly#edward’s hairstreak butterfly#white-m hairstreak butterfly#horace’s duskywing butterfly#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'American Dream' (trademarked) or 'JFS=KW12'
    resistant to anthracnose and powdery mildew
'American Dream' (trademarked) or 'JFS=KW12'
Tags:
#deciduous#shade tree#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#fall interest#street tree#showy fruits#small mammals#food source wildlife#fire low flammability#NC native#deer resistant#acorns#nighttime garden#oak tree#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#wet soils tolerant#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#moth larvae#problem for horses#black walnut toxicity tolerant#Audubon#banded hairstreak butterfly#gray hairstreak butterfly#imperial moth#juvenal’s duskywing butterfly#edward’s hairstreak butterfly#white-m hairstreak butterfly#horace’s duskywing butterfly#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Quercus
    Species:
    bicolor
    Family:
    Fagaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The inner bark was used heavily in the leather tanning industry and it also produced an important yellow dye. Native Americans used it to treat a wide variety of ailments. Native Americans and pioneers used the nuts for food. Roasted acorns have been ground and used as a coffee substitute. The wood is used in furniture but is not as valuable as white oak due to having more knots.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    South East Canada to Northern Central & Eastern U.S.A
    Distribution:
    Native: United States--AL, CT, DE, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT, VA, WV, and WI Canada--Ontario and Quebec
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    This tree is mildly resistant to damage by deer. The wildlife value is high. The acorns are eaten by woodpeckers, blue jays, small mammals, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and black bears. Oak trees support a wide variety of Lepidopteran. You may see Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) larvae which have one brood per season and appear from April-October in the south. Adult Imperial Moths do not feed. Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus), which have one flight from June-August everywhere but Florida where they emerge April-May. Edward's Hairstreak (Satyrium edwardsii), has one flight from May-July in the south and June-July in the north. Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), has three to four flights in the south from February-November and two flights in the north from May-September. White-M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album) has three broods in the north from February-October. Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius) has three broods in Texas and the deep south from January-November, and two broods in the north from April-September. Juvenal’s Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) has one brood from April-June, appearing as early as January in Florida. It attracts a wide range of insects which in turn feed the birds.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Wildlife Nesting
    Edibility:
    Acorns (nuts) are edible after tannins are leached or boiled out.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 50 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 50 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Open
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits are 0.5 to 0.75 inch long, shiny brown acorns that are often in groups of 2-4 and have long stalks. The cap encloses 1/3–1/2 of the acorn and has grayish scales and fine hairs. Produces a good crop every 3 to 5 years. Matures in 1 to 2 years. Fruit is available September-October. They are initially green and ripen to light brown to brown.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Insignificant
    Spike
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are in drooping, elongated clusters. Male flowers are yellow-green catkins that measure 2 to 4 inches long. The female flowers are green to red short spikes. Flowers bloom in April. The flowers are pollinated by the wind.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    White
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Velvety
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Lobed
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are 3 to 7 inches long and 1.25 to 4 inches wide. They are deciduous, alternate, oblong, lightly lobed, and have 6 to 10 pairs of coarse dentate teeth. The lobes can cut down to the midrib. The leaf color is medium to dark green and slightly glossy on the upper side. They are tomentose, white to silver on the undersides which adds an interesting effect in the wind. They are two tone and explains the name bicolor. The petiole is yellow to greenish-yellow and 0.5 to 0.75 inches long. Because it hybridizes easily in the wild, there is variation in leaf shape and winter color. Winter color can be brown to yellows or reds.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Black
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Furrowed
    Peeling
    Ridges
    Scaly
    Smooth
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Rectangle
    Bark Description:
    Depending on the age of the tree the bark can be black, brown to grey in color. With age, it has a scaly appearance, rough with deep, vertical furrows and horizontal breaks, and may begin to peel. When young, the bark is smooth. The inner bark is yellow-orange and bitter tasting.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Hairy
    Stem Bud Terminal:
    Cluster of terminal buds
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    The bark of the branches is similar to the bark of the trunk; however, the branches are smoother. Twigs are brown or gray, stout, and covered with scattered white lenticels. The twigs bark can be ragged and often peels. The terminal buds are short, blunt, light brown, and there are thread-like stipules.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Pond
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Nighttime Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Fire
    Poor Soil
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Abdominal pain, constipation then diarrhea (occasionally bloody), depression, frequent urination, discolored urine, jaundice; acorns can obstruct the digestive tract
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Gallotannins, quercitrin, and quercitin.
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Fruits
    Leaves