Willow oaks (Quercus phellos) and pine trees (Pinaceae family) are long-lived trees native to the United States. More than 30 species of pine trees in all different shapes and sizes grow throughout the country, while willow oaks are found predominately in the South. Gardeners who learn the facts about these majestic native trees will be able to decide if one of the species is suitable for the home garden.
The willow oak is a deciduous tree that may grow up to 100 feet tall, although it is commonly smaller. The tree is notable for its leaves, which, unlike other oak trees, resemble the long green leaves of a willow tree. Willow oaks produce an abundance of acorns, which are enjoyed by wildlife such as squirrels and birds. Pine trees range in appearance depending on cultivar, but are characterized by slender, often dark green pine needles and brown cones.
The willow oak grows throughout the Eastern to Southeastern United States, from New Jersey down to Eastern Texas. The resilient tree is a popular landscape tree in its native range. Pine trees grow throughout North America, from Canada down through the states to Mexico and beyond. The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) once covered nearly 70 million acres of land in the Southeastern United states, though now its range is closer to 3 million acres. California is home to a wide variety of different pine trees.
Oak willow does best in deep, silty or loamy soils. They dislike dense, clayey soils that have been overworked. Oak willow thrives in humid, temperate climates with plenty of sunlight and moisture. Pine trees tend to be more drought tolerant and often require a full day's worth of sunlight. Many pine species prefer a sandy, well drained soil that's not wet or soggy, but some species, like the spruce pine (Pinus glabra), prefer a moist, fertile soil.
Both oak willow and pine trees are highly attractive to wildlife. The oak willow attracts red-headed woodpeckers, rodents and blue jays with its acorns, while animals such as mice and flying squirrels will live or hide in the tree. The nuts of species like the pinyon (Pinus edulis) are prized by humans and eaten by other mammals and birds, like the Western scrub jays.
Willow oak is often used as a landscaping tree, thanks to its appearance and its shade. The leaves of the tree undergo a colorful change in the autumn, which enhances the willow oak's ornamental appeal. Pine trees are enjoyed for their woodsy scent, their evergreen needles and in cases of the longleaf pine, their durable timber. The bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata) is a long-lived tree that is popular as a landscape tree and even as a bonsai tree.