Height: 50 to 70 feet
Lifespan: Fast-growing and short-lived. Rarely reaches more than 100 years of age.
Fall Foliage: Nice fall foliage, ranging from bronze to (more commonly) red.
Range: Though widely planted as a street tree, this is primarily a tree of the Midwest, essentially from Missouri to Pennsylvania.
Typical Habitat: A low-land tree, most comfortable in rich, moist, acidic soils. However, this is a sun-loving tree, which is not tolerant of shade.
The Pin Oak: A Fast-Growing Tree at Home in the Forest and City
Many of the characteristics that allow the pin oak to thrive in natural habitats provide value in urban settings too. In fact, this particular species is commonly planted as a street or shade tree, as it’ll take the indignities of city life in stride. It’s also an attractive, fast-growing species, who quickly shoots up to provide shade and an attractive aesthetic. It’s fall foliage provides yet another reason homeowner and landscapers often enjoy it.
However, the pin oak does cause some problems. Most notably, it typically produces downward sweeping branches near the bottom of the tree, which can require frequent pruning.
Identification: Tips & Tricks
Pin oak leaves are pretty easy to separate from those in the white oak group, as they have bristle tips. You can also note the color on each side of the leaf: Pin oaks are green on both sides (though the underside is typically lighter), rather than being greyish-blue below like some other oaks. They also have tiny hairs near the vein junctions on the bottom sides of the leaves.
But it is the tree’s growth habit and – most notably – production of small “pins” (tiny branchlets emerging from the branches) that provide the best identification clues.
The Pin Oak: Additional Information
Pin oak caught your interest? Check out these high-quality resources to learn more:
- University of Arkansas Research & Extension: Lots of great information about pin oaks, including the good and bad of its use as a street and shade tree.
- Arbor Day Foundation: A nice quick guide that provides the basic information you may need at a glance.
- U.S. Forest Service: Everything you could want to know about the pin oak and more – but in pretty dry form.