Water Oak

This is a handsome, rapidly growing shade tree for moist soils. Its acorns are an excellent food for duck, songbirds, turkey, squirrel, mice and deer. The wood is heavy and strong; used for fuel and rough construction.

Quercus nigra, the Water Oak, also known as the spotted oak, duck oak, punk oak, orange oak or possum oak, is an oak in the red oak group, native to the southeastern United States. It is a medium-sized deciduous tree, growing to 100 ft tall with a trunk up to 3 ft in diameter. Its attractive form makes it a popular landscape tree. The tree is relatively short-lived compared to other oaks and may live only 60 to 80 years.

Water Oak is adapted to wet, swampy areas, such as along ponds and stream banks, but can also tolerate other well-drained sites and even heavy, compacted soils. It grows in sandy soils, red clays, and old fields to the borders of swamps, streams, and bottomlands and can grow up to 1500 ft altitude. Due to its ability to grow and reproduce quickly, the water oak is often the most abundant species in a stand of trees. It does not compete well and does not tolerate even light shade. Water oak is frequently used to restore bottomland hardwood forests on land that was previously cleared for agriculture or pine plantations.

Young trees have a smooth, brown bark that becomes gray-black with rough scaly ridges as the tree matures. The leaves are alternate, simple and tardily deciduous, only falling well into winter; they are 1–5 in long and 1/2–2 in broad, variable in shape, most commonly shaped like a spatula being broad and rounded at the top and narrow and wedged at the base. The margins vary usually being smooth to shallowly lobed, with a bristle at the apex and lobe tips. The tree is easy to identify by the leaves, which have a lobe that looks as if a drop of water is hanging from the end of the leaf.

The top of each leaf is a dull green to bluish green and the bottom is a paler bluish-green. On the bottom portion of the leaves, rusty colored hairs run along the veins.

The acorns are arranged singly or in pairs, 1/3-1/2 in long and broad, with a shallow cupule; they mature about 18 months after pollination in fall of the second year.

Water Oak acorns are an important food for White-tailed Deer, Eastern Gray Squirrel, Raccoon, Wild Turkey, Mallard, Wood Duck, and Bobwhite Quail. In winter, deer will browse the buds and young twigs.
Water Oak

Water Oak Leaves
Water Oak has been used for timber and for fuel by people in the southern states since the 17th century. The wood is generally sold as "red oak".


1. "Quercus Nigra." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Aug. 2012. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_nigra

2. Quercus nigra USDA (2006) Digital Image. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Web. 19 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_nigra

3. Water Oak. (n.d) Digital Image. University of Florida School of Forest Resources & Conservation. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/water_oak/wateroak.htm

4. #15 Water Oak (n.d.) Digital Image. North Carolina Wesleyan College. Web. 27 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from: http://faculty.ncwc.edu/ekosal/arboretum/water_oak.htm