Oak (Quercus) come in many sizes and shapes, and you’ll even find a few evergreens in the oak mix. Whether you are looking for the perfect tree for your landscape or want to learn to identify the different oak trees types, this article can help.
Varieties of oak tree
There are many oak tree varieties in North America. The oak varieties are divided into two main categories: red oaks and white oaks.
Red oak trees varieties
Red oaks have leaves with pointed lobes tipped with tiny bristles. Their acorns take two years to mature and sprout in the spring after they drop to the ground. Common red oak tree include:
- Willow oak
- Black oak
- Japanese evergreen oak
- Water oak
- Pin oak
White Oak Plant Varieties
The leaves on white oak trees are smooth and rounded. Their acorns mature in one year and they sprout after they fall to the ground. This group includes:
- Post oak.
- Bur oak
- White oak
Most Common Oak Plants
Below is a list of oak plant types that are the most commonly planted. You’ll find that most oaks are large in size and not suitable for urban or suburban landscapes.
White Oak Tree (Q. alba): Not to be confused with the group of oak plants called white oaks, the white oak tree grows very slowly. After 10 to 12 years, the tree will stand only 10 to 15 feet tall about 3-5 m but it will eventually reach a height of 50 to 100 feet about 15-30 m. You shouldn’t plant it near patios or sidewalks because the trunk flares at the base. It doesn’t like to be disturbed, so plant it in a permanent location as a very young sapling, and prune it in the winter while it is dormant.
Bur Oak (Q. macrocarpa): Another massive shade tree, the bur oak grows 70 to 80 feet tall about 22-24 m. It has an unusual branch structure and deeply furrowed bark that combine to keep the tree interesting in winter. It grows further north and west than other white oak types.
Willow Oak (Q. phellos): The willow oak tree has thin, straight leaves similar to those of a willow tree. It grows 60 to 75 feet tall, about 18-23 m. The acorns of oak plants aren’t as messy as those of most other oaks. It adapts well to urban conditions, so you can use it as a street tree or in a buffer area along highways. It transplants well while oak tree is dormant.
Japanese Evergreen Oak (Q. acuta): The smallest of the oak trees, the Japanese evergreen grows 20 to 30 feet tall about 6-9 m and up to 20 feet wide about 6 m. It prefers the warm coastal areas of the southeast, but it also will grow inland in protected areas. Oak plants has a shrubby growth habit and work well as a lawn tree or screen. The oak tree provides good quality shade despite its small size.
Pin Oak (Q. palustris): The pin oak grows 60 to 75 feet tall about 18-23 m with a spread of 25 to 40 feet about 8-12 m. It has a straight and a well-shaped trunk canopy, with the upper branches growing upward and lower branches drooping down. The branches of oak in the center of the tree are nearly horizontal. It makes a wonderful shade oak tree, but you may have to remove some of the lower branches to allow clearance.