How to Identify Oak Trees by Leaves


Oaks are common landscape trees that grow quite large and provide ample shade. While squirrels may not care what type of oak tree they're getting their acorns from, learning how to differentiate oak trees by leaves can be fun for gardeners, especially those looking for a particular landscape trees. Oaks have such unique leaves (and acorns) so classifying a tree as oak is easy, but telling the type of oak takes time and practice.

Step 1

Note the color of the leaves. All oak species have glossy, olive-green hued leaves. The undersides of the leaves are pale green and the leaves are thick. In the autumn oak leaves turn brown and dry out.

Step 2

Check the shape of the leaf. It should be fringed. The shape and spacing of the fringe can help you identify the type of oak.

Step 3

Note whether the lobes are rounded. If so, you've found a member of the white oak family. The University of Minnesota notes that common white oaks include burr, white, swamp white and chinkapin. Consult a tree identification guide to determine what type of white oak you've found.

Step 4

Observe pointy-edged oak leaves on members of the red oak family, such as northern red, northern pin and black oak. The size of the lobes can help you identify the exact type of red oak tree.

Step 5

Compare the tree you want to identify with images of oak leaves at Vanderbilt University (see the Resources section). Vanderbilt university offers images of oak tree bark, acorns, leaves and buds so you can examine many different features on the tree to properly identify the species.


  • University of Minnesota: White Oak Leaves
  • University of Minnesota: Red Oak Leaves

Who Can Help

  • Vanderbilt University: Comparison of Features of Oak
Keywords: oak tree leaves, identifying oak leaves, identifying oak trees

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.