Tennessee has 20 native species of oak that fall into two broad categories: red or white. Oak trees bear acorns, which provide food for wild critters and anyone interested in harvesting acorns for acorn meal. These long-lived specimens make good shade trees; their wood is often used in the furniture industry. Tennessee's oak trees can be identified by their leaves, acorns, bark and buds, as well as their geographic habitat; some prefer lowlands and some higher ground.
Determine whether your tree is an oak tree by first examining the shape of the leaf and looking for acorns. While variations within oak leaves help you narrow down the species, all oak leaves have an ovoid shape with long lobes. In the spring and summer, oak leaves are dark green; in autumn, they turn brown. If the leaves do not have this appearance, you do not have an oak tree.
Note whether the lobes on your oak tree are rounded. This confirms the presence of a white oak tree. Tennessee white oaks include white oak, bur oak, chestnut oak and post oak.
Notice that pointy lobes on your oak leaf denote a red oak. Common red oaks within Tennessee include the Northern red oak, Southern red oak, black oak, cherrybark oak and Shumard oak. There are more types of red oak within Tennessee than white.
Review the list of Tennessee oak species published by the University of Tennessee to accurately identify the exact species of red or white oak you have found (see Resources). This guide describes the leaf, acorn and bark of each tree to help homeowners identify each local oak.