White Oak

Quercus alba

Of about half-a-dozen oak species present in the Alper Preserve, this one is the most frequent and conspicuous. The high abundance of white oak makes Alper Preserve special! While it may be challenging to tell some other oaks from each other, white oak is the easiest to identify, as its leaves are light-colored (glaucous) on the underside and have blunt, rounded lobes without bristles—a character unique among oaks in our area. The bark on mature trunks often becomes strikingly light-colored, nearly white, which makes white oak look so different from other forest trees that it can be recognized from the distance. Leaves, when they emerge in spring, are covered with dense whitish hairs and thus also appear brightly light-colored. As many other trees, white oak develops a narrower crown and grows much taller in the forest than in the open, reaching up to 100 ft. As compared to other oaks, white oak is extremely long-leaved. Its valuable wood has been used for various woodwork, especially barrel-making, hence its technical name: stave oak. It takes acorns of white oak two years to ripen. In any oaks, abundant crops (mast crops) of acorns are produced every few years. Acorns of white oak germinate in the fall, so that the oak spends its first winter as a little sprout. This makes it more vulnerable as compared to red, black, scarlet, or scrub oak, which postpone germination until spring. Besides, over 100 species of birds and mammals feast on its sweet acorns, favoring white oak over red, scarlet, black, and scrub, all of which have bitter acorns.

See all photos for this species at salicicola.com

White oak in spring. May 23


Leaves glaucous on the underside and first-year acorns. August 18

A germinating acorn. October 3