This is likely one of the commonest tree species within the Southeast and definitely within the space the place I dwell in Columbia. It is a typical element of forests, principally bottomland, from Delaware to Texas, together with most of Florida. It doesn’t fairly get into Kentucky.
It is often seen as a road tree and in parks. Some actually large ones are planted alongside varied streets right here on the town, in addition to on the native faculty campuses. The bark of enormous bushes is mostly darkish grey and a bit tough.
The leaves are attribute, I believe, and I inform college students that every leaf has a broadened apex and is formed like a twister, if you maintain it upright by the petiole. Or like an ice cream cone. They like that higher.
Then I maintain it as much as my face, beneath my eye, with a downward orientation, and inform them that if they cannot bear in mind the identify of it, I will be unhappy. A inexperienced tear. They get a cost out of that, too. They love all my jokes and humorous tales.
As with all oaks, particular person female and male flowers are fairly tiny and inconspicuous, positioned somewhere else on the identical bough. The male, pollen-producing flowers are held collectively in a string-like affair and I do know you’ve seen this stuff piled underneath a tree within the spring. Female flowers produce the acorns, after all.
During the autumn of a very good 12 months, a single massive tree can produce seemingly hundreds of acorns and they’re generally scattered on the bottom. The acorns are somewhat small and unremarkable, the caps sufficiently small to lodge between my canines’ toes, inflicting discomfort and resultant elimination.
Saplings, and maybe extra clearly sprouting branches from reduce bushes, generally have leaves which can be bigger with variously pointed lobes, so this is complicated typically. This is definitely the state of affairs with loads of tree species, however particularly so with oaks. The greatest and most attribute leaves of any tree come from mature people, as you would possibly anticipate.
Sometimes you would possibly confuse this with blackjack oak, Q. marilandica, which has been the topic of this column previously and may typically develop alongside our mystery tree within the sandhills. Blackjack is sort of all the time a resident of effectively-drained sands, whereas water oak can tolerate moist soils, even briefly flooded, so there’s the habitat distinction.
Also, again leaves are sometimes a lot bigger with a very good little bit of reddish hairs on the decrease floor. Finally, blackjack leaves, additionally rounded apically, normally have three very shallow shoulders which will seem on water oak, however not persistently.
You would possibly marvel why this tree is not referred to as black oak. Though the bark might be darkish, I do not assume Linnaeus ever noticed it. Anyway, widespread names are notoriously inaccurate and deceptive, and there aren’t any guidelines governing their creation and/or utilization. You can name this a pine tree if you need. OK, possibly that may be a bit excessive.
John Nelson is retired curator of the A.C. Moore Herbarium on the University of South Carolina. As a public service, the herbarium presents free plant identifications. For extra data, go to www.herbarium.org or e mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Answer: Water oak, Quercus nigra
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