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Black Oak Quercus velutina


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Black Oak, leaf
credit: Willow/CCSA

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Family: Fagaceae, Beech view all from this family

Description Also called eastern black oak, this member of the red oak group (Quercus sect. Lobatae) is native to eastern North America from southern Ontario south to northern Florida and southern Maine west to northeastern Texas. It is a common tree in the Indiana Dunes and other sandy dunal ecosystems along the southern shores of Lake Michigan. Quercus velutina was previously known as yellow oak due to the yellow pigment in its inner bark, however nowadays this name is usually reserved for Chinkapin oak. It is a close relative of the western black oak (Quercus kelloggii) found in western North America.

In the northern part of its range, black oak is a relatively small tree, reaching a height of 20-25 m (65-80 ft) and a diameter of 90 cm (35 in), but it grows larger in the south and center of its range, where heights of up to 42 m (140 ft) are known. Black oak is well known to readily hybridize with other members of the red oak group.

The leaves of the black oak are alternately arranged on the twig and are 10-20 cm (4-8 in) long with 5-7 bristle tipped lobes separated by deep U-shaped notches. The upper surface of the leaf is a shiny deep green, the lower is yellowish-brown. There are also stellate hairs on the underside of the leaf that grow in clumps.

The inner bark of the black oak contains a yellow pigment called quercitron, which was sold commercially in Europe until the 1940s.

Key Characteristics:

The leaves have very deep u-shaped sinuses.

The buds are velvety and covered in white hair.

The fruits or acorns of the black oak are small and almost as wide as they are long. The cap is large and covers almost half of the nut.

In southern New England, black oak grows on cool, moist soils. Elsewhere it occurs on warm, moist soils. These soils are derived from glacial materials, sandstones, shales, and limestone and range from heavy clays to loamy sands with some having a high content of rock or chert fragments. Black oak grows best on well drained, silty clay to loam soils.

Black oak grows on all aspects and slope positions. It grows best in coves and on middle and lower slopes with northerly and easterly aspects. It is found at elevations up to 1200 m (4,000 ft) in the southern Appalachians.

Warning Acorns poisonous to animals if eaten. Humans should generally avoid ingesting plants that are toxic to animals.

Habitat Mountains.

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