For prospective landscapers, improper identification of oak leaves can lead you to potentially misidentify an oak tree you want to use on your property. For lumberjacks or wood workers, misidentifying oak leaves on a tree in the wide can cause you to harvest the incorrect species of oak. Because different oak trees grow to different heights and volume, misidentifying the leaves of a sapling can have disastrous effects if used as a shade tree beside a house. Correctly identifying oak trees by their leaves ensures you can use the tree for the correct purposes.
Oak leaves vary from a distinct serrated pattern to a five-point "blade" or lamina. Separating the leaf into a serrated family as opposed to a blade category can help narrow your oak options. For example, you will find a serrated leave on scarlet, southern red, cherrybark, northern red, shumards and black oak species, but you will find a five-point blade pattern for post, bur and white oak species.
More exotic oak varieties have a distinct "bulb-shape" that gives the leaves a rounded appearance as opposed to a sharp blade. For example, the leaves for swamp, white-oak, shingle, chingkapin water and chestnut species all have foliage with rounded, bulb-like leaves.
Thickness and Shade
Oak leaves display a combination of physical features, such as thick, waxy leaves with a pale but same-shaded underside. Whether the leaf has a green or reddish color, the underside will pale by half, and to the touch, the leaf will have a waxy residue to it that transfers to your skin. Additionally, the leaves will have disproportionately thick veins, providing the leaf with a "sturdy" feel.
Acorns or acorn buds appear in conjuction with oak leaves. Acorns represent the "seeds" by which oak trees propagate and consist of a "bell-shaped" nut. The nut exhibits a smooth hull similar to a filbert nut and the dome of the nut consists of a flaky, woody hull. When imagining an acorn, imagine a round nut wearing a thick stocking cap. Identifying an acorn provides proof that the leaf you want to identify resides in the oak family.