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QUERCUS phellos

Image of Quercus phellos

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Fagaceae

Botanical Name

QUERCUS phellos

Plant Common Name

Willow Oak

General Description

There is perhaps no finer oak for hot, tough, dry landscapes than the willow oak. This large deciduous tree develops an oval canopy and naturally inhabits both upland and lowland sites across the eastern and southern United States. Some of its more unusual and desirable features are that it is fast-growing, yet strong-wooded, and transplants easily.

The fine, distinctive foliage of willow oak is long, narrow and glossy dark green. It is light green when it first emerges and then turns shades of brown, orange and yellow in autumn. In mid-spring, the branch tips yield lots of pendent pollen-shedding male flowers, called catkins. Once their pollen is shed, tiny female flowers open at the bases of the newly emerging leaves. The fertilized female flowers develop into acorns that are borne in pairs or small clusters. These are relatively small, round and dark brown with light brown stripes and gray bumps and have shallow, shingled caps. Its bark is gray, mildly furrowed and becomes corky as the tree ages.

Willow oak should be given a full sun location and will grow well in many soil types, though it is said to grow best on clay-rich loams with a slightly acid pH. It is very tolerant of heat and humidity, drought, pollution and occasional standing water – all of which are common in urban locations—so it is a highly popular city tree. Moreover, this tree performs magnificently in the average suburban landscape. Its leaves are small and very easy to rake, and though it produces quite a few acorns, they are not a serious problem. Use willow oak as a shade tree, street or parking median specimen, or as a stately conversation piece for an estate, park or large front lawn. This tree is susceptible to oak wilt.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 3

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    6 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    40'-70' / 12.2m - 21.3m

  • Width

    30'-50' / 9.1m - 15.2m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring, Late Spring

  • Native To

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

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Wet Site, Pollution, Soil Compaction

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Red, Light Green, Chartreuse

  • Fruit Color

    Tan, Chocolate

  • Fruit Color Modifier

    Striped/Striated

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Orange, Sandy Brown

  • Bark Color

    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

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Corky

  • Usage

    Shade Trees, Street Trees

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes