Willow Oak (Phellos)

The Willow Oak (Phellos) 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 Willow Oak (Phellos) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Willow Oak (Phellos) will reach up to 100 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 60 feet.

The Willow Oak (Phellos) 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 medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -23°F. has none tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Erosion Control: Willow oak is a good tree species to plant along margins of fluctuating-level reservoirs.

Wildlife: Its acorn is relished by game animals and birds such as ducks, squirrels, deer, and turkey, blue jays and red-headed woodpeckers. Grackles, flickers, mice and flying squirrels utilize the tree itself.

Timber: The wood is used for lumber, crossties, construction and pulp.

Recreation and Beautification: Willow oak is widely planted as an ornamental and shade tree.

General Characteristics

Quecus phellos L., willow oak grows mainly in bottomlands of the Coastal Plain from New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania south to Georgia and northern Florida; west to eastern Texas; and north in the Mississippi Valley to southeastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois, southern Kentucky and western Tennessee.

Willow oak is a medium to large-sized tree that grows up to over 100 feet tall, with a trunk 3 to 6 feet in diameter. It has thick, smooth, light-reddish bark when young; which becomes roughened and divided into narrow ridges on older trees. The leaves are simple, alternate, deciduous, elongated and slender, with smooth edges; they are light green and shiny above, dull and paler below with distinct venation. The small, round, brown acorns are usually produced singly or in pairs with a shallow, saucer-shaped cap. The overlapping scales that make up the cap are thin, hairy, and dark red. There are about 462 acorns per pound.

Required Growing Conditions

Willow oak is well adapted to moist, well-drained, acid soils and full sun or light shade.

Cultivation and Care

Natural regeneration is principally through sprouts from stumps of small trees and advance reproduction. Larger diameter stumps do not sprout readily. Willow oaks may be established by planting acorns. Acorns collected in the fall may be sown immediately or kept in cold storage until spring. The seedbed must be kept moist, well-aerated with an inch or more of leaf litter. Seedlings are very intolerant of saturated soil except during dormancy. Although only moderately tolerant to shade, seedlings may persist for years under a forest canopy, continually dying back and resprouting.One to two year old bareroot plants may also be used for field plantings.

General Upkeep and Control

Thinning of a stand of trees may be necessary to encourage development of larger willow oaks.

Willow oak’s principal enemy is fire. Seedlings and saplings are readily killed by even a light burn; hot fires kill larger trees. Canker infected trees should be removed immediately both to salvage the log and to protect other trees.

Pests and Potential Problems Trees wounded by fire are susceptible to butt rot fungi. A common canker is caused by Polyporus hispidus. Common trunk borers considered as serious insect pests are the red oak borer (Enaphalodes rufulus), carpenterworm (Prionoxystus robiniae), and living-beech borer (Goes pulverulentus). Willow oak is susceptible to acid rain.

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

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
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 None
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
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 High
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -23
Soil Depth for Roots 28
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing Yes
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4.5–5.5 pH
Precipitation Range 40–40 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–800 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 28
Minimum Frost-Free Days 190 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance None
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
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