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Swamp chestnut oak

Fall color of swamp chestnut oak.

Swamp chestnut oak may be difficult to find in commercial nurseries, but it may be worth looking for. This species provides dense shade and good red fall color. It may be useful as a parkway tree or as a shade tree in residential yards.

Botanical name:

Quercus michauxii

All common names:

swamp chestnut oak, basket oak

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Specimen,
  • Shade tree,
  • Parkway/street

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)

Mature Height:

60-100 feet

Mature Width:

40-60 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Alkaline soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • May be difficult to find in nurseries,
  • Messy fruit/plant parts

Ornamental Interest:

  • Fall color

Seasons of Interest:

  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Oval,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Browsers,
  • Game birds,
  • Migrant birds,
  • Small mammals

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Despite its name, this tree does not prefer to grow in wet areas.  It prefers a moist, well-drained soil.
Able to tolerate dry sites as well.
Relatively easy to transplant.
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.

Native geographic location and habitat

Common in well-drained bottomlands and flood plains.
In Illinois, this species is native only in a few southern counties.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is light in color, gray to silvery-gray.  It is thin and platy on mature trees.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate, obovate leaves; margins are coarsely serrated; up to 8 inches long.
Medium green on the upper leaf surface; white and hairy on the lower surface.  Fall color is red.

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 to  1 1/2 inches long, with a bowl-shaped cap that covers about 1/3 of the nut.


Location of Quercus michauxii (Swamp chestnut oak) at the Arboretum