Oak trees are famous all over the world because of their unique ability to grow on different climatic conditions and environments. But they’re not only famous for this.
Oak trees also have a good value to human and animals. Oak timber has a history of being used for building projects and different kinds of beautiful furniture thanks to their physical strength.
Oak is also known for its aesthetic value, including its unique grain pattern. They feed a variety of wild animals, including birds, mammals, and insects.
There are many varieties of oak trees with the United States alone boasting of over sixty species. The varieties almost look the same, but most are used for different purposes. Here is a list of 21 types of oak trees spread across the globe.
In this article:
- 1. White Oak (Quercus alba)
- 2. Black Oak (Quercus velutina)
- 3. Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
- 4. Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana)
- 5. Cherrybark Oak (Quercus pagoda)
- 6. Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)
- 7. Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia)
- 8. Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea)
- 9. English Oak (Quercus robur)
- 10. Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)
- 11. Holm Oak (Quercus ilex)
- 12. Post Oak (Quercus stellata)
- 13. Turkey Oak (Quercus laevis)
- 14. Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)
- 15. Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)
- 16. Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana)
- 17. Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii)
- 18. Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)
- 19. Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
- 20. Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)
- 21. Overcup Oak (Quercus lyrata)
1. White Oak (Quercus alba)
White oak is the most widespread of the oak family. The tree grows up to between 80 to 150 feet long when matured. This type of oak takes approximately five years to reach its maturity.
Despite the name white oak, the tree has a distinct gray bark. Their leaves are also different from other oaks. They’re not pointed, nor do they have sharp bristles though they’re lobed. The tracks can become too thick hence not supposed to be grown near buildings.
Natives use the bark of white oak for various medicinal purposes. They work as a cure for bronchitis, arthritis, fever, cough, and colds. They’re also good for improving appetite and aiding digestion. The tree also makes wonderful hardwood used for furniture, flooring, cabinetry, and boatbuilding.
2. Black Oak (Quercus velutina)
This is oak specie with a different look from its name. They were initially named yellow oak because of their look. The tree has a pale red-brown color.
Black oak belongs to the red oak family found in central North America. They mature at around 65 to 80 feet. Their lobed leaves feature a shiny green color at the top with matte brown underneath. The trees feature a coarse-textured wood.
The tree thrives in acidic and dry soil. They are intolerant to shade as they need enough sunlight. Their leaves turn yellow when grown in soils with high pH. They are also prone to decay hence not good for structures.
It’s a difficult one to transplant due to its long roots. Their wood has defects hence not used as much. But they can still make good fence posts and used for fuel.
3. Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
Common in North America, Bur oak is among the white oak family. The tree grows up to 100 feet long with a diameter of 10 feet when matured. This is an oak species that takes the longest to mature as a single foot takes up to a year.
It has deeply lobed leaves with a bright upper and white underside. Bur oak produces a beautiful pale brown wood, which is coarse grain.
Bur oak is easily adaptive to the urban setting as it’s resistant to pollution and intense heat. The tree has a very long lifespan of up to 200 to 300 years.
The tree is very valuable, thanks to its hardwood. The durable wood has very many qualities. They’re used for flooring, making barrels, fence posts, and carpentry. Native Americans value bur oak for its medicinal value. It cures broken bones, heart ailments, and diarrhea. It’s also an astringent used for drying wounds.
4. Chestnut Oak (Quercus montana)
The oak species got its name from the chestnut tree because it has leaves that bear a close resemblance to this tree. It matures with a height of 60 to 75 feet. It has a bright top with an underside gray.
It’s a deciduous tree with orange to yellow-brown fall color. It falls under the white oak family. The oak does well in limestone soil with the ability to survive in steep and rocky areas.
Chestnut is one of those oaks that grow very slowly and can take up to 10 years to mature. It adapts medium to large size depending on the growth conditions.
They’re also adaptable to urban conditions hence used in streets and parks to provide its perfect shade. It’s fire-resistant and valuable to wildlife as a habitat and food source.
5. Cherrybark Oak (Quercus pagoda)
Cherrybark oak grows very fast and mature at 100 to 130 feet. Their bark is similar to that of black cherry hence the name. Despite growing too fast, they’re still one of the strongest woods.
Cherrybark produces strong woods making excellent timber for furniture or building. The oak is under the family of red oak and features a medium red-brown color.
Thanks to their hardwood strength, they’re considered the best among the red oak family. They are mainly found in moist areas native to the southern United States. They are deciduous trees whose appearance changes with seasons.
They can also do well in dry areas that receive good sun with partial shade. Thanks to its shade, it’s perfect for parks and streets.
6. Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)
This is a medium-size oak that matures at 67 to 100 feet. At a glance, you might mistake it for black or pin oak. However, it has lobed leaves that are C-shaped, acting as a differentiator.
It features a beautiful foliage color of bright red. Its red fall color extends up to winter to bring out the beauty against the white snow. It develops a beautiful open and rounded crown that gives perfect shade.
The oak is perfect for building thanks to its beautiful large pores, coarse texture, and rot-resistant nature. It’s valued by humans for its fine wood as well as ornament. The tree is perfect for residential yards as it’s planted for shade but not a good idea for the streets.
7. Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia)
This oak thrives in soggy soil hence commonly found on the east coast of the US. It’s also called water oak or swamp laurel. The evergreen oak species grow to maturity between 65 to 80 feet. However, it’s a short-lived oak with a lifespan of about 30 to 50 years.
The oak grows very fast with upright growth. It’s one of the common oak trees used for making furniture and has lived up to its purpose since the 17th century.
One of the reasons for their short life is that they’re easily attacked by heart rot. They have no capacity to contain the rot; hence the tree fails gradually and eventually collapses. Sometimes, it’s not easy to recognize the decay; hence the tree is rarely grown on streets as it can fall on vehicles and people.
8. Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea)
This is large oak specie that grows to full maturity when it reaches between 66 to 130 feet. The tree is found in Europe, Ireland area hence sometimes referred to as Irish oak.
You can easily recognize this tree from the others using their dark olive green leaves that turn golden yellow in fall. The infamous oak thrives in the woods around hilly regions.
They produce acorns that act as a wonderful food source for birds and other wild animals.
It features straight branches and an upright trunk. The tree shines in the woods with its bright look that lets the sun pass through hence allows other plants such as grass, shrubs, and herbs to thrive underneath.
9. English Oak (Quercus robur)
English oak is one of those oak trees with a very long life. The trees grow broad and rounded and have short trunks. In fact, English Oak tends to broaden as they age to increase their lifespan. English oak is common in the UK. It’s found in the woods of southern and central Britain.
The tree has very important ecological importance thanks to its ability to feed wide varieties of wildlife and improve biodiversity. They’re also important for humans economically. Their strength makes them one of the best woods for furniture and interior carpentry.
10. Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)
Pin oak is another widely known oak that grows so fast. It got its name from the short and tough limbs and branches. The tree, native of Illinois, makes wonderful lawn and garden because of its aesthetic appeal.
If you need something to give your garden a new look, this is the oak to go for. What’s more, pin oak is pollution tolerant. They’re the type that can grow under the poorest conditions and bad soil.
When it’s fully matured, pin oak grows up to a maximum of 70 feet with a 3-foot diameter. While it’s good for home, it will only serve its purpose for up to 40 years. After the age, Pin oak tends to lose its foliage and grow wild. It’s also not a good tree for gardening in areas with high pH soil as the leaves will experience yellowing.
11. Holm Oak (Quercus ilex)
This is an evergreen oak with its origin from the Mediterranean. The Holm oak features broad leaves and can grow to 20 meters with a rounded crown. It also features a black bark.
Thanks to its beautiful shape, the tree is mostly used in gardens and parks. They are used to break the wind along the sea coast thanks to their salt resistance. They also tolerate shade and air pollution, making them perfect for the streets.
However, they’re not good for places that experience severe winter. The oak specie cannot stand freezing and might prone, lose their leaves, or die in severe winter conditions. Thanks to its strength, holm oak also makes good timber. It’s also perfect for firewood as its fire burns slowly and lasts long enough.
12. Post Oak (Quercus stellata)
Post oak falls under the white oak category, which is native to North American. It’s one of the slowest-growing oaks that can thrive in dry areas. They adapt to poor soils, mostly on top of ridges. The unique oak specie is resistant to fire, drought, or rot. Despite its slow growth, this oak tree can go up to 108 feet when matured with a trunk of 1 to 2 feet.
The leaves are somehow rough due to the scattered hairs and have a dark green color. Just like the name, Post oak wood is used for posts, construction, and railroad ties. They make strong and hardwood perfect for these uses. The tree is also praised for its medicinal value as it was natively used to cure several ailments.
13. Turkey Oak (Quercus laevis)
Turkey oak falls under the red oak category that mainly occurs on the coastal plains. It’s native to south-eastern Europe. You can easily recognize Turkey oak by its shoot buds with soft bristles. They have brittle tipped leaf lobes. It also features trunk fissures streaked with orange close to the base.
The oak tree that grows up to 30 meters first entered the UK as an ornament tree thanks to its beauty. The oak is valuable to humans but not much to wildlife, hence found in parks, gardens, and by the roadside.
Apart from serving the purpose of ornaments and beautifying lawns, Turkey oak also has other values. Its timber may not be as strong as other oak species, but it’s still perfect for indoor use. They may undergo warping or cracking when exposed to the weather outside.
14. Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)
Chinkapin oak is found in the wild thanks to their ability to grow on limestone and dry areas. The oak also performs well in alkaline soils.
At first glance, you might not recognize Chinkapin as an oak tree. Unlike other oaks, it doesn’t have lobbed leaves. But you can recognize this oak with their coarsely toothed leaves that take a yellow-green color. When young, Chinkapin appears pyramidal or oval with a pale gray trunk.
Chinkapin is as valuable to humans as it is to animals. Humans use it to beautify large lawns, gardens, and parks. It’s commonly used for specimen planting. They were also used in the past for railroad trails. Wild animals depend on their delicious scorns for food.
15. Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)
Live oak is an evergreen tree that retains its beauty by constantly renewing its leaves. The oak grows in a unique way if the environment favors them. They start by spreading their sweeping limbs towards the ground then eventually shoot upwards. While this happens, the oak creates impressive branches.
They mature to about 50 feet with their crown spreading up to 80 feet. They have very thick trunks that grown up to 150 feet.
The trees produce tapered corns, which is an important food source for birds and different types of animals. The oaks grow well in shades and places with salt soils. However, the trees are unable to withstand freezing temperatures hence not suitable for high winter areas.
16. Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana)
Oregon white oak is a deciduous tree whose growth is affected by various weather changes. It can lose its leaves and grow them back when the climate condition favors them. The oak has its origin in western North American. The tree features massive branching trunks with broad crowns.
Oregon oak grows up to around 50 to 90 feet when mature. Its branches don’t spread out too wide because it’s intolerant to shade. It’s, however, resistant to fire though smaller ones can get killed by intense heat. They can do well in areas that experience drought. They grow in wet areas, near rivers and other water bodies. It needs the wetness during winter and still withstands the drought of summer.
This oak tree that grows extremely fast is a very important food source for animals. It produces hard and heavy wood with exceptional strength. They’re also resistant to abrasion hence perfect for building. Native Americans also eat the delicious acorns of Oregon white. It’s a staple food that is eaten raw, dried, or cooked.
17. Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii)
Shumard oak grows very fast and is resistant to drought. The beautiful tree adapts well to urban life hence perfect for parks, home yards, and streets. When matured, the tree goes for about 40 to 60 feet in length. The tree thrives in acidic and alkaline soils. It prefers well-drained soil with normal moisture.
The deciduous tree has its leaves turn red with a burst of rich color during fall before falling off eventually. You’ll recognize it easily with its interesting foliage. It has oak shaped leaves with dark green colors.
While Shumard oak ages, its crown becomes more rounded; hence the oaks make a very suitable tree for shade. It boasts of some of the largest acorns among the oak family, going up to 1.5 inches wide. They make delicious food for various bird species. Humans also use the acorns in their craft pieces.
18. Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)
Also known as Spanish Oak, the Southern red oak falls under red oak species. The tree crowns comfortably in the wild. It can do well in poor soil areas like hilltops and slopes.
They grow into excellently large trees with a height of 60 to 80. It also produces durable shade and rounded canopy. To avoid drought, southern oak displays a wonderfully straight growth of well-spaced branches attached strongly to the tree.
Its wood is perfect for making home furniture. The wood weighs about 60 pounds and is ring porous to semi-ring porous. It’s also valuable to wildlife because its acorns are delicious, feeding both birds and mammals.
19. Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
Northern red oak is common in North America. It grows to around 65 to 70 feet and spread up to 45 feet when it reaches its maturity. The tree grows at a very fast rate in compacted soil. It’s pollution tolerant.
Northern red oak is love thanks to its aesthetic beauty. Its leaves turn russet red or bright red during fall and luxurious dark in summer. It also produces a very wonderful shade with its beautiful rounded shape.
Northern red rock is mostly found in rocky and sandy areas. It’s attracted to moist areas. The tree features incredible wildlife value thanks to its delicious acorns. It’s also valuable to humans. It’s used for flooring, furniture, railroad ties, and erecting fence-posts.
20. Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)
It’s not easy to identify willow oak as its leaves look different from what you’d expect from a typical oak. They form part of the red oak group but have distinct characteristics. The leaves have no lobes but are thin and straight. The trees are attracted to river banks, streams, and flood plains. They’re also perfect for the streets and adopt a height perfect for urban settings.
Willow oak can tolerate drought and is not affected by pollution or pests. The oak grows up to 120 feet when mature, but most of the time, you’ll find around 60 to 70 feet. They’re also easy to transplant thanks to their shallow roots. Despite its beauty, willow oak’s large size makes it inappropriate for gardening.
21. Overcup Oak (Quercus lyrata)
Overcup oak grows very slowly but can go up to 80 feet when mature. The tree is very eye-catching with its brilliant reddish back and leathery dark green leaves. It produces rich yellow-brown color in fall. Thanks to its beauty, many people plant it as an ornament. It’s very easy to transplant. It flourishes in poorly drained soil and drought and cold tolerant.
Overcup is a perfect tree for landscapes such as golf courses and parks. It can also be used as a garden tree, but you must be aware that it grows too tall and wide. The expansion might overwhelm your home space. The tree has medicinal uses hence valued by a human. It’s also a perfect wood since it’s durable, hard, and tough.
Oak trees no doubt one of the best trees found in the ecosystem. They are valuable to both humans and animals in equal measures. Various types of oak woods have different uses, including gardening, construction, furniture, and medicine.
If you want to plant one of these trees in your garden, take your time to find the most suitable one. Consider the type of soil they thrive in, their preferred climatic conditions, and their aesthetic value.