Maryland’s Favorite Tree: The Wonderful White Oak (Quercus alba)

The White Oak Tree (Quercus alba) has been a timeless favorite for centuries. This large shade tree is one of the oldest trees around and is famous for its extensive lifespan. The average white oak will live for 300 years, but the oldest was alive for almost 600 years!

Plant this tree now, and your lineage for the next hundreds of years will be able to enjoy it!

united states national tree

The Tree Of The Nation

White oaks are beloved across the nation, especially in the eastern United States. The oak tree is America’s national tree and the white oak is the state tree of 3 different states. This timeless beauty was declared the state tree of Maryland in 1941, followed by Connecticut in 1947, and Illinois in 1973.

Maryland declared the white oak as their state tree in 1941 because they were home to one of the oldest in the nation! It was named the Wye Oak (after the state park it was in) and lived in Talbot County before being destroyed in a storm in 2002. It had a trunk circumference of 32 feet, was 96 feet tall, and was estimated to be almost 600 years old!

fall white oak tree

White Oak Growing Conditions

This hardy tree is perfect for the ever-changing weather in our region. White oaks are adaptable trees that can handle rapid changes in weather. Growing in zones 3-9, white oaks are extremely low-maintenance, and require no pruning!

Ideal growing conditions for white oak trees includes at least four hours of direct sunlight per day and well-draining soil. While the tree is young, white oaks prefer to be watered frequently. Once established, they become more adaptable to drier soil conditions.

The white oak is one of the most stable trees due to its extensive tuberous root system. While its canopy can expand between 60-70 feet wide, its root system can be seven times that size – it can have almost 500 feet of roots! The tree’s impressive size makes spacial planning an important factor to consider because they are difficult to transplant once established. 

Although the tallest white oak has a recorded height of 144 feet, most trees grow to a height between 80 – 100 feet tall and can take 30 years to reach maturity. They are known for having a moderately slow growth rate, only growing about 1 foot per year.

Not only is the tree itself a slow grower, but its acorns are also notorious for taking their time. It can take up to 20 years for a white oak to produce its first acorns. Acorns will only grow every 4-6 years, but when they do come, there can be thousands! Fun fact: it only takes one acorn to grow an entire white oak!

winter white oak tree

Seasonal Interest

Beyond their extensive life span and low-maintenance care regimen, white oaks are loved for their ability to bring year-round interest to a landscape! In the spring and summer, these magnificent specimens are full of rich green foliage, making them amazing shade trees to sit under. It can be 25 degrees cooler under a shade tree than outside in full sun!

The beauty does not seize after summer though, for in the fall this broad-leaf deciduous tree will produce a show of gorgeous fall color with showstopping red and orange foliage! This is also the time when they will produce acorns!

For a final show of beauty, white oaks are magical in winter too! While the tree lacks leaves, it makes up for it with its whitish-grey bark. As the last leaves fall, the white oak’s bare branches serve as a stunning backdrop to cool winter skies and they look even more beautiful when they are covered in a blanket of ice or snow.

white oak acorn

Ecological Impact

Not only will this tree be a benefit to you, but it is also highly important for the ecosystem. The acorns that come from white oaks are the primary food source for birds and other woodland creatures. Over 80 species of birds and mammals depend on these acorns to survive! 

Due to their massive height, white oaks also provide a great home for pollinators and many other creatures. They provide a home for over 900 different species of caterpillars throughout the nation

white oak tree

White Oak Trees At Patuxent Nursery

Whether you are looking to better your local environment or bring long-lasting beauty to your landscape, the white oak tree does it all! 

Stop by Patuxent Nursery today to pick up your white oak, along with all of your other landscaping needs!

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