TREES & plants

White oak

White oak is a massive, long-lived stately tree with wide-spreading horizontal branches and wine-red fall color. This native tree provides shade for larger landscapes and parks.

Botanical name: 
Quercus alba
All Common Names: 
white oak
Family (English): 
Beech; Oak
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Tree
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Planting Site: 
  • Residential and parks
  • City parkway
  • Wide median
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Shade
Size Range: 
  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)
Mature Height: 
50-80 feet
Mature Width: 
100 feet
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
  • Zone 9
Soil Preference: 
  • Acid soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Intolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Soil Salt: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Intolerant
Planting Considerations: 
  • Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Fall color
Season of Interest: 
  • Mid winter
  • Late spring
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Inconspicuous
  • Yellow
Shape or Form: 
  • Round
  • Spreading
Growth Rate: 
  • Slow
  • Moderate
Transplants Well: 
  • Yes
  • Game birds
  • Game mammals
  • Migrant birds
  • Small mammals
More Information: 

Size & Form

50 to 80 feet high and wide

Pyramidal in youth; upright-rounded with age; wide spreading branches at maturity

Tree & Plant Care

Majestic state tree of Illinois. A long-lived tree for large landscapes and parks.
Does not tolerate wet conditions, best planted in well-drained sites.
Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.
Roots are sensitve to soil disturbances, such as compaction and construction.

Disease, pests, and problems

Difficult to transplant due to taproot

Oak wilt, anthracnose, two-lined chestnut borer

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

This tree provides food and cover for many birds and wildlife.

Bark color and texture 

Gray to light tan, with thick overlapping plates or thick ridges.

Often large sections of bark on trunk  is smooth due to a harmless fungus, called smooth patch.

White oak (Quercus alba)White oak (Quercus alba)photo: John Hagstrom

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

New leaves emerge pinkish, changing to dark green, fall color is a wine red.

Leaf margins are rounded. Lobes can be  small or large.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Drooping, male catkins appear in April.

Female flowers are inconspicuous tiny spikes in axils of new leaves

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

1-inch long, single or paired nut is enclosed with a warty cap.

Acorns ripen in fall and can be considered a litter probles, especially near sidewalks and patios.