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): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
  • Deciduous (foliage falls off)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Dry sites
  • Occasional drought
  • Occasional flooding
  • Alkaline soil
  • Clay soil
  • Road salt
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
  • Other
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Irregular
  • Spreading
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
Time of Year: 
  • Late spring
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care


Disease, pests, and problems

  • can be affected by pests such as the oak leaf caterpillar and kermes oak scale.  

Disease, pest, and problem resistance


Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5


Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

  • fringed cap acorns are high-value and attract songbirds, upland ground birds, water birds and small mammals. 

Bark color and texture 

  • Color: dark gray to brown
  • Texture: furrowed trunk
  • Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)photo: John Hagstrom

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture


  • Arrangement:
  • Size: 4-10” long, 2-5” wide
  • Shape: alternate, simple, pinnately lobed with a central pair of sinuses which reach midrib
  • Texture: coarse
  • Color: dark green
  • Fall Color: yellow-brown

Flower arrangement, shape, and size


  • Arrangement:
  • Shape: male drooping catkins
  • Size: 1-2”

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

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

  • Type: Fringed cap acorn
  • Size: 3/4 – 1 ¼”
  • Color: light green becoming tan-brown at maturity

Cultivars and their differences