Quercus phellos – Willow Oak
Botanical Name: Quercus phellos
The Willow Oak (Quercus phellos) is a medium to large sized deciduous tree with a rounded conical crown. The growth pattern is graceful, with the lower limbs gently sloping downwards. It grows to a height of 40-75 feet tall with a spread of 25-50 feet. This tree belongs to the Red Oak group, which has bristles on the tips of their leaf lobes.
The Willow Oak originates in the southeastern United States and is found growing in coastal plains in the Atlantic and Gulf regions and in the Mississippi Valley. Much like the Pin Oak, it has similar pin-shaped branches. These trees are intolerant of shade, and the branches die back and break off, leaving short stubs or pins behind.
The flowers are inconspicuous catkins, which develop in the spring with the leaves. Both male and female catkins grow separately on the same tree. The leaves grow up to 5 inches in length and 1 inch wide. They are a glossy dark green and lance-shaped – just like willow leaves. The margins are entire (with no lobes), with a bristle on the tip. The fall color is unremarkable and turns shades of yellow and brown in the fall, much like willow leaves do.
The acorns are round and ½ inch in size. They have scaly cups that are marked with black and brown colored bands. They are an important source of food for birds and mammals.
The Willow Oak is tolerant of wet or dry conditions and compacted soils. Its shallow root system can interfere with sidewalks when planted as a street tree.