Characteristics of the Oak Tree


The mighty oak tree is the national tree of the United States. In 2004, Congress passed legislation naming it as such. The tree belongs to the beech family and is broad-leaved deciduous tree. They are considered to be one of the best shade trees. Oak trees produce fruit in the form of acorns, which Native Americans use to make flour and squirrels use as food.

The oak tree reaches a mature height of 50 to 70 feet and most oak trees are adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions. These trees are generally pest and disease-free. Galls often appear on the leaves and stems, but they are usually harmless.

The leaves of the oak tree have a single elliptical shape and vary in size from two to five inches in length. They rarely exceed two inches in width. The upper part of the leaf is dark green and has a shiny texture. The bottom part of the leaf is dull gray in tone and has a leathery feel. In the fall, oak leaves, in some areas of the country, are known to turn beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow.

Oak trees are very hardy trees with long lives. Some can live as long as 200 years or more. One of the oldest oak trees on record was in Talbot County, Maryland. It was rumored to be about 400 years old. The tree did not survive a violent thunderstorm in 2002. However, in Louisiana, the Seven Sisters Oak is certified to be a 1,000 years old. It measures 37 feet in diameter and the crown spread is 150 feet.

Even though oaks rarely get diseased, there are some oak diseases you might want to be on the lookout for. Sudden Oak Death is an aggressive disease that kills an oak rather quickly. It’s a fungus that causes cankers to form on the tree trunk. If it’s left untreated, the cankers can bleed and spread the disease to other parts of the tree. Oak Wilt occurs in the United States where it’s considered a very serious tree illness. This fungus damages leaves and can spread from tree to tree by connected root systems. Finally, there’s Shoe String Rot. This is caused by a soil-based fungus. It attacks the oak tree from the bottom up. The disease moves through the roots and up to the heart of the tree, where it can eventually kill it.

Mature oak trees have high water consumption. They can draw nearly 50 gallons of water daily through their roots. They need to be well watered. You don’t have to plant them in sites that drain well. The excess water is good for them. Oak trees have extensive taproots and they can compensate for any water shortages by getting water from underground sources.

From the age of 20 on, most oak trees produce acorns. Some trees don’t begin acorn production until they reach 50 years of age. Once acorn production starts, they will produce thousands of acorns during the fall. The amount will only increase each year. Acorn production is supported by tree health.

Oak trees are known as being easy to care for. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can neglect it. To maintain a healthy oak tree, you should consider doing the following:

  • Keep the tree’s root system well-hydrated, especially when it gets hot in the summer,
  • Don’t plant oak trees near buildings or other trees because its large roots can affect drainage and even tear up sidewalks,
  • Don’t overwater an oak tree because excess water can lead to root rot,
  • Add chipped bark mulch to the base of the tree to protect the soil,
  • And don’t over prune an oak tree because the exposure of interior branches to direct sun can damage them.

Oak trees are beautiful trees and they can provide a lovely addition to your property. You just need to care for them properly. If you have any questions on proper oak tree care, contact Austin Tree Service at 512-341-8888.


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