Quercus alba (White Oak) Fagaceae Family

Quercus alba, the white oak, is one of the preeminent hardwoods of eastern North America. It is a long-lived oak native to eastern North America and found from southern Quebec west to eastern Minnesota and south to northern Florida and eastern Texas. Some of the oldest documented white oaks are over 450 years old. 


white oak leaf


Physical Characteristics


The leaves of the white oak are five to nine inches long and two to four inches wide. They have five to nine blunt-ended lobes and vary in exact size and shape in different layers of the canopy. The leaves are relatively heavy and thick and may remain attached to the tree through the winter. Fallen leaves accumulate in dense, slowly decomposing masses on the forest floor. 

Flower | Seeds 

The white oak flowers in the mid-spring with the unfolding of its leaves. An individual tree produces both male flowers (“catkins”) and female flowers. The catkins represent an important spring food source for gray squirrels and many other animals. Fruit from the fertilized female flowersarethe familiar acorns that on the white oak mature after a single season. These acorns (which are produced in abundance only every four to ten years) are readily eaten by many species of birds and mammals. The gray squirrel is particularly fond of white oak acorns and is very important in both their dispersal and their planting.



Trunk | Bark

The white oak’s bark is light gray and divided by shallow fissures into small, vertically aligned blocks.

Life span: While the white oak grows extremely slowly,  individuals can live for five hundred to six hundred years (especially in deep, moist but well drained soils). Through their slow and steady growth and remarkable longevity, white oaks can come to dominate all of the other tree species within a great variety of forest ecosystems.

Distribution range 

White oak grows throughout most of the Eastern United States. It is found from southwestern Maine and extreme southern Quebec, west to southern Ontario, central Michigan, to southeastern Minnesota; south to western Iowa, eastern Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas; east to northern Florida and Georgia. The tree is generally absent in the high Appalachians, in the Delta region of the lower Mississippi, and in the coastal areas of Texas and Louisiana.

The west slopes of the Appalachian Mountains and the Ohio and central Mississippi River Valleys have optimum conditions for white oak, but the largest trees have been found in Delaware and Maryland on the Eastern Shore.

Did you know? 

White Oaks  have both male and female trees. The male flowers are greenish-yellow catkins, up to four inches long, which hang from twigs. Female flowers are small reddish spikes. 

Work Cited 

  • Brownstein, Blake . “White Oak Photos .” 2013. JPG file
  • “Fact Sheet .” USda.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 July 2013. <plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_qual.pdf>
  • “Plants Profile for Quercus Alba.”usda.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 July 2013. <plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=qual>.
    Drafted by Blake Brownstein 

Distribution Maps





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