The post oak (Quercus stellata), also called the iron oak, is a small to medium-sized tree that grows 40 to 50 feet tall at maturity with a 1- to 2-foot trunk diameter. The post oak is known for its strong wood, twisted branches and abundant acorns, as well as its tolerance of droughts and many different soil types. Post oak trees have a wide variety of important uses in landscapes, for commercial purposes and for wildlife.
Landscape Shade Tree
Due to the post oak tree’s moderate size, it’s often planted as a landscape tree. The post oak has horizontal branches and a dense, rounded canopy that provides shade. The 4- to 6-inch-long leaves each have five deep lobes. Post oaks can grow on dry, rocky sites and in poor, compacted soils, making it a popular choice for slopes for soil stabilization and other areas where few tree species can grow. Because of the post oak tree’s hardiness and pollution tolerance, the tree is also commonly planted in urban environments.
Food and Shelter for Wildlife
The post oak is beloved by a wide range of birds and other wildlife for many reasons. Wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and squirrels consume the post oak’s acorns during the fall and winter as a major component of their diet. The acorns have a high fat and nutritional content for these animals, enabling them to survive the winter months and produce healthy offspring. The post oak’s tree cavities and canopy offer nesting sites and dens for a wide array of both mammals and birds. Squirrels, birds and raccoons use the post oak’s leaves to build nests as well.
The post oak’s hard, strong and close-grained wood is commonly used to make railroad ties and posts, because the wood endures easily without decaying when in contact with soil. Post oaks’ lumber is also harvested to make lathing, siding, mine and construction timbers, planks, molding, flooring, veneers, particle boards and even fuel. The post oak derives its name from its use in making rot-resistant fence posts. Post oak lumber is sometimes sold as white oak or called box white oak. The post oak’s bark is also used for its tannin content in making mulches and fuel.