Oak trees belong to the Fagaceae family of plants along with beeches and chinkapins. They live for 200 or more years, with one in Maryland living to be 460 before a hurricane took it down. The trees are slow to mature, with most varieties not producing any acorns until they are about 20 years old. Oak trees are mostly found in the eastern 2/3 of North America.
White oak (Quercus alba) also is known as northern white oak, stave oak, ridge white oak and forked-leaf white oak. The tree grows 80 to 100 feet tall with a straight trunk and wide, open crown. It produces leaves that grow 4 to 8 inches long, are greyish-green on the top, light-green on the bottom and turn burgundy in the fall. The flowers bloom in April or May. The male flowers are yellow-green and the females are reddish-green. The female flowers produce 1-inch long, light-brown acorns. White oak can be found from Southern Canada to Florida and from the Atlantic Coast to Minnesota and Texas. Plant in full-sun, partial-shade or full-shade and in a soil that is dry or moist but not wet. The acorns are a favorite food of birds and small animals, and butterflies are attracted to the flowers.
Pin oak (Quercus palustris) also is known as Spanish oak and swamp oak. The tree grows 70 to 80 feet tall with a trunk that is 2 to 3 feet in diameter. The tree produces dark-green leaves that grow 3 to 6 inches long. They turn russet, red or bronze in the fall. The flowers are pale yellow-green and the acorns are brown with mahogany-red streaks. They take two years to mature. Pin oak can be found from Connecticut to northern Virginia and west to Iowa and Nebraska. Plant in full-sun and a soil that is moist to wet. The acorns are a favorite meal for animals and the flowers attract butterflies.
English oak (Quercus robur) also is known as pedunculate oak and truffle oak. The tree grows as tall as 140 feet with a spread of 80 feet and produces deep-green leaves that grow 3 to 5 inches long. The leaves turn brown in the fall. The acorns that are about 1 inch long. The English oak was brought to America in the 17th century and is found mostly in Canada and the northern United States. Plant in full-sun and a moist soil.