Home Help Glossary About
Uses Name

Oak

Quercus sp.

Family: Fagaceae

Location:
  • throughout the United States
White Oak
Characteristics:
Species Identification:
  • leaves (shape, bristle-tipped or rounded)
  • bark
  • acorns and caps
  • buds (hairy or hairless)
  • twigs (hairy or hairless)
Red Oak Leaf Black Oak Leaf white oak
Leaves:
  • lobed, wave-edged, or smooth-edged
  • Red Oak: bristle-tipped, moderately lobed, hairless, thin, dull green above
  • Black Oak: bristle-tipped, thickened, glossy above, mostly hairless beneath
  • White Oaks: rounded tips, no bristles, hairless, somewhat whitened beneath
red oak leaf black oak leaf
White Oak Leaf
Flower:
  • male flowers appear in May and early June as slender drooping clusters of long catkins
  • female blossoms are inconspicuous
white oak leaf
Red Oak Acorn Black Oak Acorn
Fruit (acorns):
  • acorns differ by species and are a useful identification tool
  • Red Oak: acorn cup is flat and saucer-like, overlapping scales
  • Black Oak: cup is bowl shaped and shaggy
  • White Oak: cup is bumpy and bowl shaped, covering less than 1/3 of acorn; acorn is greenish-white
red oak acorn black oak acorn
White Oak Acorn
Red Oak Bark Black Oak Bark
white oak acorn
Bark:
  • Red Oak: long thin strips with rough shiny ridges, red underbark
  • Black Oak: dark blocky trunk, no shiny ridges
  • White Oak: light gray, slightly furrowed to scaly
red oak bark black oak bark
Buds and Twigs:
  • Red Oak: hairless, sharp or blunt, not angled
  • Black Oak: gray-hairy, pointed, sharply angled
  • White Oak: red-brown, small, blunt, hairless, not angled
  • Red, Black, and White twigs are hairless
White Oak Bark
white oak bark
Uses:
Oak wood is excellent for building or burning. Small oaks can be split and cut into long thin strips (3 to 6 millimeters thick and 1.2 centimeters wide) used to weave mats, baskets, or frameworks for packs, sleds, etc. Oak bark soaked in water produces a tanning solution used to preserve leather. Inner bark of the oak produces a strong dye or can be stripped to make cordage. Eating untensils can be carved from the nonresinous wood because you do not get a wood resin aftertaste or taint the food. A block of this hardwood is ideal for making the drill and handle of a bow drill, useful for igniting a pile of tinder. A section of green twig from this tree can be used as an old-fashioned toothbrush. Powdered oak gall can be used as tinder and sprinkled on a glowing ember and gently fanned to produce a flame. This dense hardwood burns slowly and evenly making it ideal for slow cooking. The acorns can be boiled to make a dye for fabric.

Home Help Glossary About