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TREES & plants

Black oak

A black oak leaf.

Black oak, a native of the Chicago region, could be used as a parkway or street tree. Fall color is yellow to yellow-brown. This species is not offered in commerce as often as other oak species.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

Botanical name: 
Quercus velutina
All Common Names: 
black oak
Family (English): 
Beech
Family (Botanic): 
Fagaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks, 
  • City parkway, 
  • Wide median
Landscape Uses: 
  • Parkway/street, 
  • Shade tree, 
  • Specimen
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
50-60 feet
Mature Width: 
40-70 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6, 
  • Zone 7, 
  • Zone 8, 
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil, 
  • Dry soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Prefers
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Tolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • May be difficult to find in nurseries, 
  • Messy fruit/plant parts
Season of Interest: 
  • Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
Shape or Form: 
  • Irregular, 
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
Wildlife: 
  • Game birds, 
  • Game mammals, 
  • Migrant birds, 
  • Small mammals
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Black oak can be difficult to transplant due to a deep taproot.
Though tolerant of dry sites, this species cannot withstand severe drought.
Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.

Disease, pests, and problems

Oak wilt is a potential disease problem.
Insect pests include scale and two-lined chestnut borer.
Galls caused by mites or insects are common, but not harmful.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 6

Native to the Chicago region.  Commonly found in dry sites.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is ridged and furrowed.  Very dark to almost black at maturity.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves with moderately deep sinuses and bristle-tipped lobes; up to 10 inches long.
Dark green in summer, changing to yellow or yellow-brown in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male flowers in dangling catkins; female flowers smaller and held close to the stem.  Not ornamentally important.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Acorns, 1/2 to 3/4 inch long topped with a slightly fringed cap.  Borne singly or in pairs.

Quercus velutina or Black oak