Pin Oak (Palustris)

The Pin Oak (Palustris) is generally described as a perennial tree. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Pin Oak (Palustris) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Pin Oak (Palustris) will reach up to 100 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 40 feet.

The Pin Oak (Palustris) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -33°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Even though the wood is heavy, strong, and hard, pin oak is typically used for fuel wood, wood pulp, and railroad ties, since it tends to warp. Due to this species’ form, adaptability, growth rate, longevity, and fall foliar display, it is popular for ornamental usage. Pin oak is utilized by many game species, especially wood ducks, white-tail deer, and wild turkey. Due to its use by these highly sought after animals, pin oak is commonly planted for food plots.

General Characteristics

Pin oak is a moderately large tree with normal heights ranging from 70 to 90 feet with diameters between 2 and 3 feet. Trees reaching 120 feet tall with 5-foot diameters are occasionally encountered on good sites. The bark of this tree is smooth, reddish to grayish-brown during the juvenile period, becoming darker and shallowly fissured as the tree growth slows with age. The lower branches of pin oak are prostrate to descending, with smooth, slender, reddish-brown twigs. Clusters of pointed buds are located at the tips of twigs. Three to five inch alternate leaves have 5 to 7 points or lobes with bristled tips and deep C-shaped sinuses. The leaves change in color from a dark green to a deep scarlet red in fall. The leaves are deciduous but will usually persist on the tree into winter.

The flowers of pin oak emerge soon after new leaves unfold in spring (April to mid-May). The acorns that develop are roundish, short stalked, 3/8 to 1/2 inches long, and capped with a thin and shallow saucer-like cup. The acorns will take 16 to 18 months to develop from pollination to maturity. When mature the acorn turns light brown to reddish-brown, and will drop from September to November. In 30 to 35 year old stands of pin oak, 4,000 to 20,000 sound acorns per acre yields have been documented. There are 410 acorns per pound.

Pin oak is often confused with scarlet oak (Q. coccinea) due to similar appearance. Scarlet oak is an upland species that prefers soils with good drainage on dry sites.

Required Growing Conditions

Pin oak’s native range spans from Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Michigan, to Kansas south to North Carolina and northern Arkansas. This tree grows under a wide range of site conditions, but is a true bottomland tree. It is seldom found growing above elevations of 800 feet, or on sloped ground. Pin oak grows in practically pure stands with good growth rates on wet, shallow sites with heavy soils that drain poorly. On better quality sites it will often grow larger, but is normally out competed by other species.

Cultivation and Care

Both seed and stump sprouts are sources of natural regeneration for pin oak. Although viable acorns sink, this species is often dispersed by water, as well as animals, wind, and gravity. In areas that are regularly flooded, acorn damage by insects is reduced and germination is typically faster than most other species. Since there is more than adequate annual seed yields and adequate moisture on the forest floor in spring, it is not uncommon to see seedlings blanketing the ground under pin oak.Under nursery production conditions, mature acorns are placed on raised beds in fall or spring, but germination will not occur until spring. Shoot elongation begins about the same time as leaf out of established trees and continues until fall. Seedlings are distributed by most nurseries as 1 year old bareroot stock for field plantings, but balled and burlapped saplings are distributed for ornamental uses.

General Upkeep and Control

Pin oak typically requires management only during the first few years after outplanting to a permanent site. Weed competition and deer browse must be managed in many locations. Site preparation to control weeds the year prior to outplanting will pay dividends in increased growth rate. Contact herbicides, used according to the label, and/or control by tillage are most commonly used. There are a variety of deer control products that may be useful such as tubes or mesh sleeves over the seedling. Weeds and deer control require repetitive action and maintenance to be effective.

Pests and Potential Problems Livestock must be kept out of tree and shrub planting areas. Insect and diseases include gypsy moth and oak wilt. Gypsy moth should be controlled when the trees are young, but older trees can tolerate infrequent defoliation. Little can be done about oak wilt. Entire stands may be killed by prolonged flooding.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) ‘Crownright,’ ‘Sovereign.’ The species is available through numerous native plant nurseries. Nursery produced seedlings are currently grown from local or regional seed sources.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Tree
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Colonizing
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 100
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 30
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing Yes
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4.5–6.5 pH
Precipitation Range 32–32 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–800 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 30
Minimum Frost-Free Days 120 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA