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Possum Oak Quercus nigra

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
KWER-kus NY-gruh
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Water Oak is a native to the central and eastern USA.  It is a semi-evergreen tree found in forests, flood plains, and along rivers and streams or in sloped areas with drier soils. In NC, it is found from the coastal plain to the foothills of the mountains. It has a rounded to conical form, a slender straight trunk and may grow 50 to 100 feet tall. The tree has alternate leaves with smooth or bristle-tipped margins. The leaf shape is variable and may have 0 to 5 lobes. In spring, cylindrical, male flowers and female spikes mature. The acorn requires two growing seasons to reach maturity.  It is regarded as more weak-wooded than most oaks. 

This tree prefers rich, medium to wet acidic soils in full sun. It is adaptable to other soil types and part shade. Great tree for naturalized areas, as a street tree or a shade tree in large areas. Also useful in wetter sites.

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems:  Limbs are notoriously weak. Older trees susceptible to rot. Susceptible to oak wilt, often with fatal consequences. 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. Potential insect pests include scale, oak skeletonizer, leaf miner, galls, oak lace bugs, borers, caterpillars and nut weevils.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Leaves broad at apex, narrow tapering from middle down
  • Leaf apex shallowly 3-lobed, more or lass bristle tipped
  • Leaves glabrate below with axillary tufts
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#acidic soil tolerant#street tree#cpp#fruits early fall#sun#wet soils tolerant#sunshine#showy leaves#deciduous#Braham Arboretum#edible fruits#fall color yellow#food source#bird friendly#full sun#food source hard-mast fruit#shade tree#low flammability#yellow flowers#cover plant#fast growing#food source fall#wet sites#children's garden#well-drained soil#NC native#broadleaf evergreen#compaction tolerant#fantz#tree#fall color red#fruits#playground#food source herbage#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#weak wood#deer resistant#butterfly larvae#fall color#small mammals#problem for horses#deciduous tree#cover#flowering tree#small and large mammals#larval host tree#fire resistant#butterfly friendly#sandy soils tolerant#native tree#spring interest#moths#fall color bronze#salt tolerant#partial sun#acorns#audubon#clay soils tolerant#larval host plant#Piedmont Mountains FAC#partial shade#wildlife plant#showy flowers#moist soil#coastal FAC#full sunlight#spring flowers#showy fruits
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#acidic soil tolerant#street tree#cpp#fruits early fall#sun#wet soils tolerant#sunshine#showy leaves#deciduous#Braham Arboretum#edible fruits#fall color yellow#food source#bird friendly#full sun#food source hard-mast fruit#shade tree#low flammability#yellow flowers#cover plant#fast growing#food source fall#wet sites#children's garden#well-drained soil#NC native#broadleaf evergreen#compaction tolerant#fantz#tree#fall color red#fruits#playground#food source herbage#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#weak wood#deer resistant#butterfly larvae#fall color#small mammals#problem for horses#deciduous tree#cover#flowering tree#small and large mammals#larval host tree#fire resistant#butterfly friendly#sandy soils tolerant#native tree#spring interest#moths#fall color bronze#salt tolerant#partial sun#acorns#audubon#clay soils tolerant#larval host plant#Piedmont Mountains FAC#partial shade#wildlife plant#showy flowers#moist soil#coastal FAC#full sunlight#spring flowers#showy fruits
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Quercus
    Species:
    nigra
    Family:
    Fagaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Used as timber, fuel, veneer, and plywood but it is not good for finished lumber as it splits when drying. In the case of the Native Americans, this tree was also used for food and medicine.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central & Eastern U.S.A
    Distribution:
    AL , AR , DC , DE , FL , GA , IL , KY , LA , MD , MO , MS , NC , NJ , OK , SC , TN , TX , VA. New Jersey south to Florida west to Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri north through Illinois, Kentucky, and Virginia
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    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.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Edible fruit
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Nesting
    Edibility:
    Acorns (nuts) are edible after tannins are leached or boiled out
    Dimensions:
    Height: 50 ft. 0 in. - 100 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 35 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Conical
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    1/2 to 1-inch nearly black acorn with a flat, scaled cap that covers about 1/3 the nut. The acorn requires two growing seasons to reach maturity. Involucral bracts are in shallow cups and are imbricated. In North Carolina, the acorns from this tree are available from September to November.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    Male flowers in drooping catkins and female flowers in spikes. In North Carolina, flowers are available in the month of April.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Obovate
    Spatulate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    2-4 inch bluish-green leaves are paler and have pubescence beneath. Leaves may persist throughout the winter in zones 8 and 9. Leaves are alternate, simple, narrowly obovate to spatulate, the apex is shallowly 3-lobed, lobes are bristle-tipped to lacking bristles, the base is long and tapering from the middle of the leaf, they are entire and subcoriaceous. The midrib has two conspicuous spreading lateral veins where the leaf broadens, bearing pubescent tuft in axils.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Scaly
    Bark Description:
    The bark is dark and quite tight, smooth when young and later with irregular rough patches; much later developing wide, scaly ridges.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Smooth/Hairless
    Stem Bud Terminal:
    Cluster of terminal buds
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Description:
    Slender, red-brown stems. Buds are ovoid, 1/4" long, angled above and pointed, scales imbricate, and brown.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Naturalized Area
    Pond
    Recreational Play Area
    Riparian
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Native Garden
    Rain Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Compaction
    Deer
    Fire
    Pollution
    Salt
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Problem for Horses
    Weak Wood
  • 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