Black Oak Tree

Height: Usually about 75 feet, but capable of reaching twice this height in ideal locations

Evergreen/Deciduous: Deciduous  

Lifespan: Fairly long lived; up to 200 years

Fall Foliage: Brownish orange to red; not quite as spectacular as some other oaks

Range: The eastern United States; New England to Georgia, west to east Texas and Iowa  

Typical Habitat: Most commonly, relatively dry uplands with poor soil

The Black Oak Tree: Valuable to Humans and Wildlife  

The black oak – like most oaks – provides a lot of food for local birds and mammals. And because their acorns are relatively small, they’re suitable food for many species that can’t eat the large acorns of chestnut oaks (Quercus montana) and others.

Additionally, the orange-colored inner bark of black oak trees was used as a yellow dye by people. It was also important in the tanning of leather.   

Black Oak Identification: Tips & Tricks

Black oaks are pretty easy to identify as an oak, but they can be tricky to distinguish from northern red oaks (Quercus rubra) and a few other close relatives. And to make things even more challenging, black oak leaves that grow in the shade are very large with shallow lobes and look much different than those growing in the sun, which have very deep lobes.

With practice you can learn to spot the subtle difference in shape between the large shade leaves of black oaks and those of northern red oaks, but there’s an easier way to identify this species: Flip the leaf over and look for a fine pubescence that is easy to rub off and covers the majority of the bottom surface.

The Black Oak: Additional Information

Still hungry for more black oak info? Satiate your need for knowledge with these high-quality resources:

  • U.S. Forest Service: A comprehensive guide to the black oak tree, detailing everything from forest associates to the species’ response to fire.
  • University of Kentucky: A basic overview of the species, but in an easy-to-digest format that makes for a great quick-reference.
  • Illinois Wildflowers: Basic information as well as some anecdotal info, presented in a more personable format than is common for tree species guides.   
A lifelong environmental educator and the former executive director of a 501(c)3 nature preserve, Ben has led more than 10,000 miles of guided nature hikes, authored more than 40 animal care books, and been profiled in a variety of media outlets, including local public television, Countyline Magazine, and Disney Radio. When not on the trail or in front of his computer, Ben can be found cooking for his lady or playing with his dogs.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *