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QUERCUS macrocarpa

Image of Quercus macrocarpa

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Fagaceae

Botanical Name

QUERCUS macrocarpa

Plant Common Name

Burr Oak, Mossycup Oak

General Description

All things about this oak are big and bold. The behemoth bur oak is a large tree with large, uniquely irregular leaves and absolutely enormous acorns. Native to the sandy plains and dry clay soils of eastern North America, it is a slow-growing, long-lived deciduous tree with a deep root system. Its massive trunk and branches are covered in gray-brown bark that becomes very deeply ridged and furrowed with age.

The large leaves of bur oak are oval to fiddle-shaped with large, deep, irregular lobes. In mid-spring, the branch tips yield lots of pendent pollen-shedding male flowers, called catkins. Once they finish blooming, the small female flowers open on the newest twigs at the base of leaves. These give rise to huge acorns that mature in autumn. The broad, deep brown acorns have massive fringed cups that almost swallow the entire nut. The fall foliage turns to a modest, rustic yellowish brown.

Bur oak needs full sun and will tolerate a variety of limey or calcareous soils, from sandy to clay-rich. It is highly tolerant of a wide range of difficult growing conditions once established but is very difficult to transplant past the seedling stage, so it is rarely offered as a landscape tree. Still, it is highly ornamental and quite easy to grow from seed, so patient gardeners may consider planting a bur oak if they are interested in a long-term landscape investment. This species is also resistant to oak wilt.

Bur Oak becomes an elegant large shade tree for large green spaces and parks. Its winter branches have a lovely, spreading form and its acorns are an important food source for wildlife. The heavy nut litter can be problematic in public areas, so this is not a good tree for street sides or other highly trafficked areas.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Sunset Zone

    A2, A3, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    70'-80' / 21.3m - 24.4m

  • Width

    70'-80' / 21.3m - 24.4m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring, Late Spring

  • Native To

    North America, United States, Northeastern United States, Mid-Atlantic United States, Southeastern United States, North-Central United States, Central United States, South-Central United States, Texas, Canada

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Soil Compaction

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Red, Light Green, Chartreuse

  • Fruit Color

    Brown, Chocolate

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green, Gold, Brown

  • Bark Color

    Brown, Chocolate, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Fissured

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes