Sawtooth oak is a large, deciduous tree that is frequently grown in Georgia in both urban and suburban settings. Native to Asia, the tree was introduced United States in 1862 as an ornamental specimen. The tree is particularly showy in the fall when the summertime growth of green leaves turns bright yellow over the entire tree. The tree is named for the saw-toothed pattern that forms along the margins of its leaves.
Sawtooth oak grows well in many areas of United States from USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9. They are among the fastest growing of the oak trees. Young trees often put on 4 to 6 feet of growth per year, slowing down as the tree matures.
The leaves of the tree are green during the growing season, turning to a showy display of yellow in the fall. The leaves tend to be persistent on the tree long after they have died. They range from 4 to 8 inches long and from 2 to 4 inches wide, are simple and oblong in shape with roughly serrated edges and coarse veining that runs laterally through the leaf from a central rib. Flowers form in the spring. They are small, green and inconspicuous. The fruit of the tree is an acorn that is dry, hard and brown, ranging from 1/2 to 1 inch in length. The bark is grayish brown and rough in texture with deep furrows.
The tree usually grows from a relatively short, single leader trunk that remains straight with lateral limbs. The trunk tends to flare out at the base. Sawtooth oak grows to a height of 45 feet and can spread more than 50 feet across. The crown is rounded or pyramidal with a fairly symmetrical and smooth outline. The canopy is moderately dense and coarse in texture.
Sawtooth oak grows best in full sun. It prefers acid soils that are well-draining but can adapt to a variety of soil conditions including clay and loamy soils that may also be alkaline. It can tolerate occasional wet conditions and has a high drought and moderate salt tolerance. Lower branches can be pruned to allow the tree to be planted along walkways and roads. The tree tends to produce significant leaf litter and large numbers of acorns, which can prove to be a yard maintenance issue.
The tree is commonly used as a landscape plant. It is often planted in residential settings as a shade and specimen tree and is also frequently found lining parking lots, median strips and roadways. Sawtooth oak is especially suited to urban settings because of its ability to withstand air pollution, compact soil, poor drainage and drought conditions.
In Georgia, Sawtooth oak has been found to escape plantings. It has become established in nearby forests, potentially displacing native species. According to the early detection and distribution mapping system from the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, Troup, Clarke and Liberty counties have significant populations of the plant. Native alternatives to Sawtooth oak include shingle, water, chinkapin and willow oaks, and green ash.