There are several hundred species within the oak tree (Quercus) family. Mainly, they are a broad leafed, hardwood tree that can live to be over 200 years. Depending on the species, the oak produces acorns from the age of 10 to 50, which are an important source of wildlife food. They do not, however, produce an abundant acorn yield every year, as the tree needs to store enough energy for production. Many oak species offer colorful fall foliage, which remains on the tree limbs for a long period of time.
Northern Red Oak
The northern red oak (Quercus borealis) exemplifies the perceived oak tree strength. Its name hints at its brilliant fall leaf color, russet (and bright) red, yellow and brown. Even the new spring leaves have a tinge of red. It appreciates a well-drained soil, growing in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 3 through 8. The trees grow up to 60 feet in height, with a spread of up to 60 feet, at maturity. Growing best in a full-sun location, the northern red oak rapidly forms into a rounded shape.
The sawtooth oak (Quercus acutissima) prefers a warmer climate, between hardiness zones 5 through 9. It is a wide-spreading shade tree that produces acorns in the sixth year, which is well appreciated by the wildlife in the area. It has prized foliage, with early golden spring leaves that meld into a luscious green. By fall they've turned yellow and brown. Its mature height reaches up to 50 feet, with a spread of up to 60 feet. It accepts a wide range of soil types and moisture conditions.
The white oak (Quercus alba) prefers a deep moist acid soil, but tolerates a wide variance of conditions, including drought and heat. The blue-green foliage grows densely, turning a red-brown in the fall. Its mature height can reach up to 100 feet, with a spread of up to 90 feet. This slow-growing oak appreciates full or partial sunshine in hardiness zones 3 through 9. It starts out in the shape of a pyramid, maturing to have a broader crown area.
This particular oak, sometimes referred to as the pin oak or peach oak, is often used in community parks, lining streets and on large residential areas. The willow oak (Quercus phellos) is fast growing, adding approximately 2 feet per year. It is widely adaptable to soil and climate conditions, such as heat, air pollution, standing water and drought. It grows best in hardiness zones 5 through 9, in a humid climate. Its smaller green leaves that turn yellow in the fall months. It has a mature height of up to 80 feet, with a spread of up to 40 feet.