White Oak (Alba)

The White Oak (Alba) 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 mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The White Oak (Alba) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a slow growth rate. At maturity, the typical White Oak (Alba) will reach up to 100 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 25 feet.

The White Oak (Alba) 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 -43°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Wildlife: Acorns are eaten by squirrels, blue jays, crows, red-headed woodpeckers, deer, turkey, quail, mice, chipmunks, ducks and raccoons.

Timber: White oak’s wood is strong and durable for staves for barrels, lumber, flooring, and interior woodwork.

Recreation and Beautification: White oak is an excellent ornamental tree because of its broad round crown, dense foliage, and purplish-red to violet-purple fall color.

General Characteristics

Quecus alba L., white oak, grows from Maine to Minnesota southward to Florida and Texas. It is a large, stately tree that grows up to over 100 feet tall, and 38 to 50 inches in diameter, with a round to wide spreading irregular crown. White oak bark is whitish or light gray, varying from scaly to irregularly platy or ridged and furrowed. Leaves are simple and alternately arranged on the stems; they are 5-6 inches long and have a rounded tip and wedge-shaped base, with evenly notched edges; leaves are bright green above and whitish underneath. Male flowers are green and 2-4 inches long, while female flowers are reddish and they appear as single spikes with the leaves. White oak acorns are oval; about a quarter of the acorn body is covered with a cap which drops off at maturity. There are approximately 120 seeds per pound.

Required Growing Conditions

Although found on many soil types, white oak does best on coarse, deep, moist, well-drained, with medium fertility, and slightly acid soils. It is well adapted to heavy soils and north and east-facing slopes. Natural stands are often found in areas with loam and clay soil. White oak is moderately resistant to ice breakage, sensitive to flooding, and resistant to salt spray and brief salt-water submergence. It is sensitive to fire injury, coal smoke, and fly ash deposit on soil surface.

Cultivation and Care

Fall seeding is preferable to spring seeding. White oak acorns have no dormancy and germinate immediately following seeding. Acorns are drilled in rows 8 to 10 inches apart, or broadcast and covered with ¼ inch of firmed soil. In the nursery, seedbed densities of 10 to 35 per square foot are recommended. Fall sown beds should be mulched to protect the seeds and seedlings. Partial shade is beneficial for germination. Seedlings are transplanted after the first year.Because of its deep root system, white oak is fairly tolerant of a range of soil conditions and fairly drought tolerant when well established; however, because it is taprooted, it is difficult to transplant. Production in the nursery is difficult as well and growth is slow.

General Upkeep and Control

White oak is generally classified as intermediate in its tolerance to shade. Its tolerance decreases as a tree becomes older and larger. Thinning combined with fertilization can boost diameter growth. White oak usually becomes dominant because of its ability to persist for long periods of time in the understory, its ability to respond well after thinning, and its great longevity. Even-aged silviculture is most suitable if oaks are growing in pure or mixed hardwood stands. Reducing both overstory and understory competition is likely to accelerate the growth of seedlings.

Pests and Potential Problems White oak is attacked by several insects: leaf eaters including gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), orangestriped oakworm (Anisota senatoria), oakleaf caterpillar (Heterocampa manteo), oak leaf tiers (Psilocorsis spp.) and walkingstick (Diapheromera femorata); Golden oak scale (Asterolecanium variolosum); gall forming insects like Cynipid wasps; and twig pruners, but none of these pose serious insect problems. White oak is also susceptible to perennial cankers induced by bark diseases like Strumella coryneoides and Nectria galligena; root rot caused by Armillaria mellea, Armillaria tabescens and Inonotus dryadeus; irregular brown areas on leaves and shoots caused by Gnomonia veneta; and oak blister caused by Taphrina caerulescens. The species has good resistance to oak wilt.

Existing trees are very sensitive to disturbances in their root zones caused by grading, soil compaction, or changes in drainage patterns; if severe, these disturbances can lead to mortality.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) Seeds are commercially available at forest seed companies.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Slow
General Type Tree
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors Yes
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Intermediate
Height When Mature 100
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -43
Soil Depth for Roots 48
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing Yes
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4.5–6.8 pH
Precipitation Range 36–36 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–800 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 48
Minimum Frost-Free Days 90 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Medium
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

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