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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:
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Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#sun#showy flowers#deciduous#fall color#shade tree#full sun#partial shade#wildlife plant#partial sun#native tree#moths#yellow flowers#tree#salt tolerant#showy leaves#broadleaf evergreen#cover plant#spring flowers#flowering tree#street tree#playground#showy fruits#wet sites#small mammals#moist soil#food source#fast growing#cpp#low flammability#NC native#well-drained soil#full sunlight#deer resistant#acorns#nighttime garden#small and large mammals#children's garden#fire resistant#weak wood#edible fruits#sunshine#spring interest#acidic soil tolerant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#compaction tolerant#larval host plant#deciduous tree#cover#food source fall#food source herbage#coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#fall color yellow#sandy soils tolerant#wet soils tolerant#fruits#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#food source hard-mast fruit#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#fall color red#butterfly friendly#butterfly larvae#fall color bronze#fruits early fall#larval host tree#pollinator garden#problem for horses#audubon#moth larva#banded hairstreak butterfly#gray hairstreak butterfly#imperial moth#juvenal’s duskywing butterfly#edward’s hairstreak butterfly#white-m hairstreak butterfly#horace’s duskywing butterfly
  • 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:
    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. 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
    Nighttime Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Pollinators
    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