Oak trees have a wide distribution across North America, says “Trees of North America,” with some of the many species of oaks growing in Michigan. The Michigan oak trees are all deciduous in nature, dropping their foliage each fall before new leaves emerge each spring. The oak trees of Michigan grow to various heights and are important parts of their ecosystems, as well as valued landscaping trees.
Pin oak is one of the easier types of trees to transplant because it has no deep taproot, states the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees.” In Michigan, pin oak occurs in the extreme southern counties. The pin oak got its name from the twigs, which are numerous and resemble pins. Pin oak is an interesting ornamental, with the lower branches drooping toward the ground, the upper branches reaching to the sky and the mid-level limbs growing horizontally. The tree grows to heights of around 75 feet, and it comes in cultivars such as Crownright and Sovereign.
Northern Red Oak
The northern red oak has the distinction of being the northernmost of the eastern oak tree species. The northern red oak grows to average heights in the 60- to 90-foot range. Northern red oak is a valuable lumber tree as well as a prized shade species and ornamental, exhibiting bright red leaves in the autumn in most years. Northern red oak produces acorns, which wildlife use as a large part of their fall diets. The northern red oak can suffer serious damage from a disease known as oak wilt. The National Forest Service website states that this disease spreads from one tree to another, usually from infection by beetles, which carry the fungus that precipitates the ailment.
The outstanding feature of the bur oak is its acorns, which are the largest of any of the North American oaks. These fruits can be as long as 2 inches, and they have a large cap that encloses nearly three-quarters of them. The scaly and fringed cap on these acorns gives the tree its name. The bur oak needs to be in an open area, where it can garner the full effect of the sun’s rays. This tree will grow best in fertile, deep, alkaline soil. The bur oak grows throughout much of Michigan but often does not achieve full size in many places. Bur oak has leaves as long as a foot, with from five to nine rounded lobes.
Swamp White Oak
The swamp white oak’s range in Michigan is in the southern half of the lower part of the state. Swamp white oak has foliage that is greenish above but whitish on the undersides; the leaves can change to either a copper color or a red shade in fall. The swamp white oak grows from 60 to 70 feet high, and this tree has drooping branches. The swamp white oak is at home in wetlands and near waterways, making it a good fit for the damper portions of your property. Swamp white oak is a frequent target of the gypsy moth caterpillar and other insects. The Asjes hybrid of this oak has strong resistance to many ailments that can adversely affect the leaves.