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Oaks Quercus phellos

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Quercus phellos f. itonsa
  • Quercus phellos var. sylvatica
  • Quercus phellos var. viridis
Phonetic Spelling
KWER-kus FEL-os
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Willow Oak is a medium to large-size and fast-growing deciduous tree in the Fagaceae family and the red oak group. It may grow 40 to 75 feet tall and 25 to 50 feet wide and has an oval to rounded crown. It can reach up to 100 feet tall and is long-lived. In North Carolina, it can be found in all areas of the state. It has a nice balanced, rounded form and fine texture that has made it a popular shade tree for the landscape.  Willow Oak starts producing acorns at the age of 15 to 20 years. This tree is a high-value wildlife tree for birds and mammals.

The willow oak is native to the southeastern United States, and it is typically found in the woods bordering swamps, streams, or canals.

The genus name, Quercus, is the Latin name for oak trees. The epithet, phellos, is the Greek name for cork. 

Willow Oak is easy to grow in acidic, average, medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. It is adaptable to a variety of soil types including clay soils. It is tolerant of urban pollution. It has a fibrous root system and transplants well. 

It may be utilized as a shade tree in commercial establishments, parks, golf courses, large yards, and as a street tree. It may also do well along ponds or water gardens. It is toxic to horses.

Seasons of Interest:

Bark:  Winter                Foliage: Summer and Fall             Fruits:  Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • gray to dark gray-brown furrowed bark with age
  • smooth-edged, bristle-tipped, narrow, green leaves
  • Leaf pubescence below in axillary tufts of hairs
  • yellow-green male and female catkins appear in the spring
  • rounded acorns that are up to 0.5 inches long

Insect, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  Most oak trees are susceptible to many diseases and insect pests: however, the willow oak tends to have good resistance. Potential insects may include scale, oak skeletonizer, leaf miner, galls, lace bugs, borers, caterpillars, and weevils.   Possible diseases include shoestring root rot, anthracnose, oak wilt, chestnut blight, cankers, leaf spots, and powdery mildew.  Chlorosis due to iron deficiency occurs on high pH soil. This tree is susceptible to wind damage

VIDEO created by Andy Pulte for “Landscape Plant Identification, Taxonomy, and Morphology” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee.

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'High Tower'
'High Tower'
Tags:
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Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'High Tower'
'High Tower'
Tags:
#deciduous#rain garden#heat tolerant#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#salt tolerant#cover plant#low maintenance#ducks#fall interest#air pollution tolerant#street tree#standing water tolerant#pond margins#small mammals#food source wildlife#highly beneficial coastal plants#cpp#NC native#black bears#wild turkeys#deer resistant#woodpeckers#acorns#nighttime garden#quail#children's garden#playground plant#edible fruits#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#Piedmont Mountains FAC#Coastal FACW#wet soils tolerant#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#moth larvae#problem for horses#Audubon#wind damage prone#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:
    phellos
    Family:
    Fagaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    This wood is used in construction for lumber, crossties, and pulp.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central & Eastern U.S.A
    Distribution:
    Native: United States--AL, AR, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, and VA.
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium 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. Its acorns are eaten by woodpeckers, songbirds, ducks, small mammals, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, quail and black bears.
    Play Value:
    Edible fruit
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Wildlife Nesting
    Edibility:
    Acorns (nuts) are edible after tannins are leached or boiled out.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 40 ft. 0 in. - 75 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 25 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Oval
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • 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
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • 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 1/2 inch long rounded acorns with a scaly bowl-like cap that is striated with brown and black bands. Acorns come singly or in pairs. Displays from September to November.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Catkin
    Insignificant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    Yellowish-green male flowers as long pendulous catkins. Female flowers in short spikes. Blooms from March to April.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    4-5-inch-long green leaves are 1 inch wide and willow-like. Bristle tipped at the apex. The fall color is non-showy yellowish orange-brown to red-brown. Leaves are simple, alternate, slender, smooth-edged, and shiny light green above while paler below with visible venation. The leaf margins are entire and wavy.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    When young the bark is smooth and reddish-brown. The bark ages to gray to dark gray-brown with shallow ridges and furrows.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Scaly
    Stem Bud Terminal:
    Cluster of terminal buds
    Stem Cross Section:
    Round
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Branches and larger twigs are light gray to medium gray and relatively smooth. The stems are slender, hairless, and greenish-brown when young. Buds are ovoid, 1/4" long, sharply pointed, with imbricate scales, and reddish-brown.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Naturalized Area
    Pond
    Recreational Play Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Edible 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:
    Deer
    Pollution
    Salt
    Wet Soil
    Problems:
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Stomach pain, constipation and later bloody diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Gallotannins, quercitrin, and quercitin.
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Leaves
    Seeds