Water Oak – Quercus nigra

illustration of water oak tree

A tall, slender tree, 50’ to 80’ in height, Water Oak is distinguished among other oaks by its spatulate leaves: broad and rounded at the top, and narrow and wedged at the base. The name refers to its leaf shape: the lobe looks as if a drop of water is hanging from the end of the leaf. Leaves are alternate, simple, tardily dehiscent, and green to bluish-green in color. It is a native to the southeastern U.S.

Copious crops of acorns are usually produced every year or two, and are ecologically important for deer, squirrel, raccoon, turkey, mallard, duck, and quail. It is a rapidly growing tree, frequently planted for shade, but of low quality because of the susceptibility of older trees to rot. Water Oak is adapted to wet, poorly-drained soils in swampy areas, but can also tolerate well-drained soils. It is relatively short-lived in comparison to other oaks, living only 60 to 80 years. This tree is commonly used to restore bottomland hardwood forests on land that was previously cleared for agriculture or pine plantations. Because of its rapid growth during the first few years of development, ease of propagation, and pleasing form, Water Oak is a favorite street and lawn tree in many southern cities.