Since the United States has over 60 different oak tree species that vary according to the part of the country you live in, it can be difficult for an ordinary person to figure it out. Usually, a certain species of oaks will be native to their geographical region.
I have been studying this topic in nature so that I can better understand the ecology of our acreage. Also, I have always had a garden journal and am eager to do a sort of "botany" map of our acreage, which would mark areas of towering oaks on the land along with their species.
An oak leaf is the easiest indicator for identification. We seem to have a lot of White Oaks on our land; there leaves have rounded lobes and the bark is often lighter colored and somewhat grayish than the Red Oaks that can appear so dark that they sometimes almost look black. White Oak bark can appear scaly, while Red Oak bark can have deep furrows with zigzag grainlines.
|I think of White Oaks leaves as rounded, like an angel's halo, then I think of|
Red Oak tree leaves pointy as the Devil's horns. Easy to remember.
The number of lobes on each side of the leaf's stem is also important. Growing a tree from an acorn...easily done. We have purposefully planted a few oak trees from acorns throughout our acreage. There are some evergreen oaks, but the oaks on our land are deciduous, meaning they go dormant in the winter/cold months. Some of the Red Oaks, referred to as "Scrub Oaks" have smaller leaves as indicated below, but normally deciduous Red and White Oaks have much larger leaves.
Red and White Oaks can reach 100 feet tall, but White Oaks mature at 75 ft. in height and have a wider spread that can reach up to 100 feet wide, and Red Oaks mature at 80 feet tall with about a 75 foot spread, and Red Oaks can grow faster.
White Oaks produce acorns once per year and have fewer tannins which makes them less bitter and better tasting to wildlife. One year may provide a bumper crop and the next might find acorns to be on the spare pickings side. But, one "grandfather" White Oak tree can produce over a thousand acorns in a season and these are extremely valuable to wildlife because they contain large amounts of carbs.
White Oak acorns have bumpy caps and are more elongated or oval-shaped, while Red Oak acorns are wider and more plump with caps that have smooth, overlapping scales. By the way, acorns are considered to be in the "nut" family. White Oak acorns matures to have a brown cap with the acorn remaining greenish white; Red Oak acorns mature to be brown in color.
|The small oak tree there in the center was grown from an acorn.|
We had planted several in pots, years ago, and most of them slowly
grew into trees large enough to be transplanted on the acreage.
The Southern Red Oak is a squirrel favorite and suited to other smaller wildlife because the acorns produced are smaller than the White Oak's. Southern Red Oaks are great to use for interior construction projects where the finish is important as their growth ring pores are very open and porous, but White Oaks have pores plugged with tyloses, making it more dense, which is the reason White Oak wood is great for water-tight vessels, and White Oak wood is more resistant to rot and decay. White oak is often used to build outdoor furniture and for boat construction. Therefore, of the two, White Oak is usually a bit more expensive, especially since it is more slow growing.
Red Oaks are shade tolerant trees usually can be found on dry uplands and can commonly be found invading upon Pine Tree sites.
On the flip side, as for acorns, Red Oaks often take two years to produce mature acorns, which are more bitter because of the increased tannin. Because of the need for two growing seasons for acorns to mature on Red Oaks, there will always be differing stages of acorns growing on the tree. Red Oak acorns have tiny hairs growing on the inside of the acorns, and these are not found on the inside of White Oak acorns. However, wildlife will still eat them, especially the Fox Squirrel. Other names for Red Oaks in this area are: Spanish Oak; Swamp Red Oak; Water Oak, and Turkey Foot Oak.