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If you’re looking to decorate your landscape with a majestic tree that’s sturdy and attractive, the oak represents an excellent choice. You might not be aware of it but oaks come in multiple shapes and sizes. There are different types of oak trees out there and not all of them might be suitable for your property or local climate. This is why we’ve made a selection of the best oak tree types worth considering for planting in your yard.
Most oak trees can grow easily if you meet their basic requirements. They tend to reach tall heights and large widths meaning that it’s important to have a big yard to accommodate them. An oak tree is a valuable treasure for the surrounding wildlife. It’s an essential supportive tree found in many forest systems. Oaks are recommended for residential landscapes to provide some cooling shade. However, it’s worth mentioning that these trees grow very slowly. If you’re ready for the long-term investment involved in growing an oak tree, make sure you choose the best type for your yard.
1. Northern Red Oak
Spread throughout the Midwest area of the US, the northern red oak is widely recognized for its reddish-brown wood color. The tree might also get its name from the stunning fall coloration. In any case, northern red oaks are highly recommended to beautify your property. Compared to other oak types, this species tends to grow pretty fast and may take only a decade to become 20 feet tall.
Mature trees are known to live very long, for hundreds of years. They will reach up to 100 feet in height. In terms of durability, the northern red oak offers good tolerance against pollution and compacted soil. It can be grown successfully anywhere within hardiness zones 3 to 8. If you wish to accelerate growth as much as possible, it’s recommended to provide the tree with acidic, loamy, or sandy soils.
2. Water Oak
Some oak tree types are extremely valuable for wildlife and human needs. The water oak is a great example. It’s not just useful for many wild animals seeking shelter and food, but also for its high-quality wood that has important uses in the timber industry. Water oaks are native to the southeast regions of the US. As the name of the tree suggests, it prefers growing in areas close to streams or ponds.
Thanks to its broad rounded canopy, the water oak is highly recommended as a shade tree for residential landscapes. The trunk of this tree boasts impressive thickness, appearing sturdier than other oaks. In terms of height, this type of oak tree is able to reach up to 80 feet. The lifespan is more reduced compared to other trees as it typically doesn’t live beyond a century.
3. Black Oak
Found predominantly in the coastal areas of North America, the black oak is visually similar to the red oak. There are some aspects that help in making a proper identification. The black oak features fairly dark and glossy leaves and doesn’t reach very tall heights. Mature trees will only grow up to around 50 to 60 feet. If your property features dry soil, it’s safe to say that you will struggle to grow other trees but the black oak can tolerate such conditions.
The name of this type of oak comes from the color of the bark when the tree reaches maturity. It becomes very darkly colored with deep fissures and ridges. If you live in California, the black oak is the most common type of oak found in the state. The flat crown of foliage can provide a respectable amount of shade to your yard.
4. Chestnut Oak
Sometimes called “the rock oak” due to its preference for dry soils, the chestnut oak represents an attractive choice for any yard. It’s more adaptable to poor soil conditions compared to other oaks but it’s also quite susceptible to diseases. Chestnut oaks are native to the eastern US and look quite similar to chestnut trees, especially when it comes to the appearance of the bark that features a corklike texture.
This type of oak doesn’t grow particularly tall as the average height is around 60 to 70 feet. Maturity is reached quite slowly because this isn’t a fast-growing tree. In its natural habitat, the chestnut oak is widely spread on the East Coast at higher elevations. Due to its distinctive leaf look with coarse serrations, this type of oak is easier to distinguish from others.
5. Bur Oak
The bur oak tree is a particularly attractive member of the larger oak family. It’s a good choice for yard planting because it tolerates a wide range of conditions while having a long lifespan. This type of oak is often found in areas with limestone because it thrives in alkaline soils as opposed to the majority of oak species.
Young bur oaks start out with an oval shape but they will extend the foliage and obtain a more open shape once maturity is reached. A distinctive feature of this type of oak is the look of its acorns which are almost fully covered by the fuzzy-textured cap. Although this can be an excellent shade tree that requires minimal maintenance, it can be vulnerable to common oak diseases.
6. Japanese Evergreen Oak
If you’re searching for a small oak tree with a shrubby growth habit, the Japanese evergreen species seems like an ideal match. It doesn’t grow taller than 30 feet in most cases with a maximum width of 20 feet. As the name of the tree suggests, this oak type is native to Japan and other regions in Asia. It was introduced to the US in the 19th century where it can thrive in warm coastal areas.
The Japanese evergreen oak offers great shade despite its reduced size. It’s a recommended lawn tree but it can also work as a privacy screen. Similar to other oak types, the growth rate of the Japanese evergreen isn’t very fast. Thanks to the thin trunk and smooth bark, this species stands out compared to other oaks. The leaves feature no lobes and a distinctive oblong shape.
7. Pin Oak
With an elegant canopy and a straight trunk, the pin oak embodies the classic majesty of an oak tree. This species can work very well if you require good shade for your property. The lower branches of the pink oak have a drooping downward tendency which means trimming could be required to allow clearance.
Due to its impressive resilience, the pink oak is frequently used for urban landscaping. It can tolerate pollution and poor soil conditions. You can easily plant it in your yard but it takes some extra care initially until the tree is properly established. Alkaline soils can cause yellowing of the leaves. Ample soil moisture is necessary to ensure the healthy growth of the pin oak. The maximum height of this oak type can reach around 75 feet while the spread extends to 40 feet.
8. Willow Oak
Willow oaks have strong branches featuring leaves that appear incredibly similar to the foliage of willow trees. The name of this species isn’t surprising at all considering how the willow oak barely seems to be part of the same oak family. Another aspect that makes this tree stand out is the fast growth rate which is unusual among oak trees.
Wet low-lying areas such as floodplains and streams seem to be ideal for willow oaks. Mature trees feature less rounded canopies than other oaks. The presence of acorns is an immediate giveaway that you’re looking at a species of an oak tree. Willow oaks are prized in the southeast regions of the US for their contribution to wildlife ecosystems. If you choose to grow a specimen in your yard, make sure you supply the young oak with enough moisture to thrive.
9. White Oak
A very durable type of oak, this tree is capable of tolerating more shade than other oak species that can only grow properly in full sun. The white oak is a sturdy tree that can provide good shade at maturity. It prefers loamy soils with sufficient drainage. Although this tree grows particularly slowly, it’s able to reach impressive dimensions that give it a majestic air.
White oaks appear particularly attractive in the fall when the green leaves transform into a deep crimson tone. This tree species works great for landscaping but you need to be aware of some potential drawbacks. Make sure you choose a good planting spot away from sidewalks because this tree is susceptible to frequent trunk flairs. The location in the yard has to be permanent as white oaks don’t handle transplanting very well.
10. Cherrybark Oak
If you prefer a very tall oak tree style, the cherrybark species could be a solid pick. This tree is part of the larger red oak family and grows quite fast when taking into account the typical growth rate of oaks. The maximum height of cherrybark oak can reach more than 100 feet easily. The massive trunk of this tree can sometimes reach widths of 50-60 inches.
Cherrybark oaks are valuable trees for the furniture and flooring industries due to their high-quality wood that offers impressive durability. Warm climates seem ideal for this type of oak tree considering that it’s native to southern areas of the US. The scientific name of the cherrybark tree is Quercus pagoda due to the characteristic pagoda-like shape of the leaf. Although it’s fairly adaptable to different growing conditions, moist bottomland sites allow this tree to thrive.