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White oak

White oak showing fall color.

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.

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.

This plant has some related hybrids. Go to list of related hybrids.


Botanical name:

Quercus alba

All common names:

white oak

Family (English):

Beech; Oak

Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

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

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Parkway/street,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

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

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Intolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Messy fruit/plant parts

Ornamental Interest:

  • Fall color

Seasons of Interest:

  • mid fall,
  • late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Broad,
  • Irregular,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Slow,
  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


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

More Information:

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, galls and scale are possible problems

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5

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 problem, especially near sidewalks and patios.

Related hybrids

Crimson Spire oak (Quercus 'Crimschmidt'):  a hybrid between English oak (Quercus robur)  and White oak (Quercus alba). It was selected for a narrow form (15 feet wide) and good red fall color. It is tolerant of a wide range of conditions

Streetspire® oak (Quercus robur x alba 'JFS-KW1QX'): A narrow, columnar cultivar gorwing 45 feet tall and only 14 feet wide; powdery mildew resistant; red fall color.

Location of Quercus alba (White oak) at the Arboretum