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TREES & plants

Bur oak

The stately bur oak, native to the Midwest, is a great choice as a shade tree and for specimen plantings in parks, spacious yards, and other large areas. Its massive trunk has gray to brown furrowed bark and its branches bear lustrous dark green leaves that turn yellow-brown in fall. Large acorns with fringed caps attract birds and small mammals

Botanical name: 
Quercus macrocarpa
All Common Names: 
bur oak
Family (English): 
Beech; Oak
Family (Botanic): 
Fagaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • City parkway
  • Wide median
  • Residential and parks
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
70-80 feet
Mature Width: 
70-80 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Prefers
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Tolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Messy fruit/plant parts
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Season of Interest: 
  • Late spring
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
  • Other
Shape or Form: 
  • Irregular
  • Spreading
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
Wildlife: 
  • Game birds
  • Game mammals
  • Migrant birds
  • Small mammals
More Information: 

Size & Form

70-80 feet high and wide
A large tree with massive, wide-spreading, heavy branches, especially in open areas

Tree & Plant Care

Commonly found in upland savannas
Full sun in well drained soil, but adaptable to many soils. Drought tolerant once established
Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.

Disease, pests, and problems

Can be affected by pests such as the leaf galls and kermes oak scale.  
Anthracnose, bacterial leaf scorch, and powdery mildew

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Fringed cap acorns are high-value to animals that can chew the nut, such as ground birds, water birds and small mammals. 

Bark color and texture 

Mature bark is dark gray to brown with a furrowed trunk
Stems are stout and smooth but young twigs can be develop corky ridges. 

Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)photo: John Hagstrom

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate leaf arrangement
Large, 4 to 10 inch long leaves with 5 to 7 rounded lobes. The terminal lobe can be fiddle-shaped.
Leaves are lustrous, dark green above with lighter silvery green beneath.
Fall color is yellow-brown

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male flowers hang down in drooping catkins, female flowers are small spikes in leaf axils

Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)photo: John Hagstrom

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Large 2 inch diameter fringed acorns. The conspicuous fringe covers most of the nut. Fruit ripens in the fall.