The pin oak (Quercus palustris) is a tree with a distinctive pattern of branches that grows in much of the Upper Midwest. It is relatively fast-growing for an oak species and has value as a shade tree or a specimen tree for your lawn. The tree takes its name from its slender twigs, which resemble pins. Pin oak trees come in different cultivars that accentuate the positive facets of the species.
The pin oak's branches are one of its main attributes, as the limbs go in different directions as you ascend the tree. The lower limbs bow toward the ground, while the middle branches grow horizontal to the tree trunk. The upper branches grow upward and spread out, giving the entire tree a different look. The pin oak can attain heights of 75 feet and be as wide as 40 feet, so consider its size when planning to plant one on your acreage.
The foliage on a pin oak often has attractive coloration. The spring and summer leaves are dark and shiny green. In the fall, pin oak leaves can turn such bright shades as red and bronze, but many years they will simply change to a dull brown. The leaves are 3 to 6 inches long and have from five to seven individual lobes that end in a pointed bristle.
Pin oaks are monoecious, which means that both the male and the female flowers emerge on the same tree. This translates into all pin oaks having the capability to produce acorns. The rounded acorns of pin oak are only 3/4 inch long, with a shallow and thin cap on them. The bark is grayish-brown and on the main trunk occurs in ridges and furrows.
In the wild, the pin oak exists in poor-draining bottomlands, with swamps a common venue. You will have little trouble transplanting a pin oak. Place it in full sun where the soil is damp but still drains well. Give the tree enough room for it to develop. Keep it away from your house and plant it in a spot where you can appreciate its shape.
Eliminate the drooping bottom branches on your pin oak by choosing the cultivar called Crownright. This will give you room under your tree that the typical pin oak lacks. Green pillar is a hybrid featuring slick green leaves that change to red in autumn. The Sovereign cultivar also has no sagging lower limbs and gets excellent marks for its foliage.