White oak is among the most important of all American trees, according to the website Floridata. Some of the uses for its wood included shipbuilding, barrel making and supporting timbers in colonial times, supplanted now by utilization in flooring, cabinets, furniture and as railroad ties. White oak is an exceptional species for large landscaping purposes, providing shade as well as acorns for wildlife to feed on.
While some white oaks may grow to exceptional sizes such as 150 feet tall with trunks as wide as 8 feet, the typical white oak is 60 to 80 feet tall. Those that grow in the open often feature large spreading horizontal branches, especially on the lower parts of the tree, with some of these branches having diameters as large as 2 feet. White oaks in a forest normally grow straight and upright. The leaves of the white oak are from 4 to 8 inches in length and have anywhere from five to nine separate lobes. The acorns have a 1/4-inch long “cap” where they attach to the branches and are as long as 3/4 of an inch.
Like all oak types, the leaves of the white oak alternate on the branches, with a single leaf emerging at a node on the twig and another at the next one, all the way along the branch. The leaves undergo a change in color over the course of the year, developing as pinkish in springtime to a dark green when mature in late spring and summer. By fall, the white oak leaf changes to a red-purple mix before falling off.
Growing White Oaks
Plant the acorns of a white oak after gathering them up from the tree in the autumn. Do so immediately, rather than waiting until the following spring, as they are prone to rotting in storage. Ascertain that the acorns are suitable for planting by taking off the caps and placing the acorns in water. Use only those acorns that sink to the bottom. Choose a site with plenty of room for the oak to grow, in full sun and soil that is a bit acidic. Water the maturing white oaks regularly but not to the point of over-watering, which can damage the roots. Remember that white oaks do not tolerate transplanting very well, so grow them where you want them to remain.
It will take a white oak as long as 100 years to attain a height of about 100 feet. White oaks are what most horticulturists consider a rapid grower for an oak species, but your tree will still need from 10 to 15 years to make it as high as 20 feet. You will notice the flowers on a white oak in May, and the acorns, a favorite of birds, squirrels and chipmunks, will begin to fall off the branches by the middle of autumn.
The white oak is a tree of the eastern United States, with its range starting in southeast Maine and extending through New Hampshire down the Atlantic Coast to Georgia. White oaks grow from Florida’s panhandle to as far west as east Texas. States such as Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa form the western border of the white oak’s range. White oaks exist around the Great Lakes in Wisconsin, lower Michigan and eastern parts of New York.