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Willow Oak Quercus phellos


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Willow Oak
credit: Michael Wolf/CCSA

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Family: Fagaceae, Beech view all from this family

Description Quercus phellos, a member of the red oak group, is native to eastern North America from Long Island to northern Florida, and west to southernmost Illinois and eastern Texas. It is most commonly found growing on lowland floodplains, often along streams, but rarely also in uplands with poor drainage, up to 400 m altitude.

It is a medium-sized tree growing to 20-30 m tall (exceptionally to 39 m), with a trunk up to 1-1.5 m diameter (exceptionally 2 m). It is distinguished from most other oaks by its leaves, which are shaped like willow leaves, 5-12 cm long and 1-2.5 cm broad with an entire margin; they are bright green above, paler beneath, usually hairless but sometimes downy beneath. The fruit is an acorn, 8-12 mm long, and almost as wide as long, with a shallow cup; it is one of the most prolific producers of acorns, an important food tree for squirrels, birds, and other animals in the forest. The tree starts acorn production around 15 years of age, earlier than many oak species.

Willow oaks can grow moderately fast (height growth up to 60 cm / 2 feet a year), and tend to be conic to oblong when young, rounding out and gaining girth at maturity (i.e. more than 50 years).

Habitat Cities, suburbs & towns, Grasslands & prairies, Watersides (fresh).

Range Great Lakes, Plains, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Florida, Texas, New England.

Comments Prefers lots of moisture and likes poor drainage, but adapts to a variety of other situations. Transplants easily. Relatively fast-growing. Doesn't drop deadwood. Susceptibe to oak wilt, often with fatal consequences. Pine-oak rusts and leaf blister are two of the more serious leaf ailments.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Native Distribution E. Texas to n. Florida, n. to s. Illinois & New Jersey

Site Preference Moist forests; stream banks; bottomlands

Soil Preference Moist clay or loamy, slightly acid, soils.

Wildlife Value Favorite food source for squirrels, deer, and birds.