This is the WATER OAK. The water oak makes its home in various habitats ranging from sandy soil, red clay, and to the borders of swamps, streams, and bottomlands. The tree does not live long compared to the others in its family, usually surviving from 60-80 years. This tree usually resides in the eastern and south-central United States, ranging from New Jersey to Texas, and inland as far as Oklahoma and Kentucky. It is found in all coastal states.
The water oak is a medium sized deciduous tree that grows to be about 100 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. The younger tree’s bark is smooth and brown, but when the tree nears maturity, it changes to a grayish-black bark with scaly ridges. The water oak’s leaves are alternate and simple and usually remain on the tree until mid-winter. The leaves are 1 to 5 inches long and one-half to 2 inches across, usually shaped like a spatula. This tree is easily identifiable by its leaves which have a lobe that is shaped like a drop of water hanging from the end of a stem. Each leaf is dull green on top with a bluish-green bottom. The water oak yields an abundance of acorns that are approximately one-half inch in length with alternating bands of brown and black coloring. The acorns are enclosed at the base with a short-stalked cap.
As with most trees, the water oak is useful for both humans and animals. Animals that enjoy grazing on the acorns include white-tailed deer, squirrels, raccoons, wild turkey, mallards, wood ducks, and quail.
This tree has been used as a source of timber and fuel by people in the south since the 1600s. The water oak is not recommended as an ornamental landscape tree due to being short-lived, disease-prone, and extremely messy.