June 11, 2013
Quercus bicolor
Swamp White Oak

DescriptionA common native tree that is useful for the urban canopy. The Swamp White Oak has interesting leaves, tolerance to compacted soils and provides food and habitat to wildlife.
UsageSpecimen, shade, street tree.
OriginExtreme southeast Canada, central and eastern USA
Hardiness zone4
Form/textureAn open, rounded form, with a short, limby trunk.
"A rounded tree with flaky bark, and often many twiggy tufts giving it an untidy look" (Jacobson).
Growth rateSlow.
LeafAlternate, simple, green turning to yellow in fall.
"The latin name for the species is bicolor, which is a descriptive of the contrast between the dark green, lustrous, upper leaf surface and the hairy, whitened, lower surface. When the wind is blowing, this gives a lively aspect to the trees, as the leaves flutter and flash with their white bottoms against the dark canopy" (Waldron).
FlowerInconspicuous, "but when profuse, the male catkins give the branches a misty chartreuse appearance" (Waldron).
Fruit"The sweet acorns are eagerly sought by deer, rabbits, squirrels and smaller rodents, woodpeckers, mallards and wood ducks" (Waldron).
Exposure/cultureFull sun, part shade.
Tolerant of a range of soil textures and soil pH.
Tolerates very wet to very dry soil moisture.
Resistant to heat, salt and soil compaction.
Few serious pest infestations.
CommentsNaturally found on moist bottomlands and edges of swamps.

This tolerance of Swamp White Oak to low oxygen in the root zone enables it to perform in compacted or poorly drained urban soils.

Tolerance to pH higher than 7.5 may depend on specific seed selection.

Waldron, G. 2003. Trees of the Carolinian Forest. The Boston Mills Press. Erin, Ontario. 275pp.