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Rugged and majestic, this adaptable oak is just at home in urban areas as it is in forests. Easily grown in full sun and a wide range of conditions, it tolerates pollution and road salt, occasional drought or flooding, strong winds, and compacted soil. The buttressed trunk grows straight and 40-100 feet tall with massive branches that form a rounded canopy. When grown in open areas, the trunks are shorter with broader crowns. The somewhat shallow root system extends 4 to 7 times the width of the crown in order to stabilize the tree. Large, attractive green leaves turn brilliant red to red-orange in the fall, and egg-shaped acorns are produced every two to four years. They are a mast food for many birds and mammals, and oaks are host plants for 477 Lepidoptera species.


In 1860, the assistant state geologist of Texas named this oak in honor of Benjamin Franklin Shumard, the current Texas state geologist. Other common names are spotted oak, swamp red oak, and Schneck oak.


Predominantly a southern coastal plain species that extends northward on limestone to Kentucky, Indiana, and parts of Ohio, its native habitats include rich, well-drained soils in forests and near rivers, dry pastures, and some upland areas. In Ohio, it appears in western and southwestern counties, including Franklin County.


Shumard oak is an ideal vertical accent or shade tree for urban landscapes, including both home yards, commercial settings, parking lot islands, wide medians, and parks. It also thrives near bodies of water. Because it has some drought tolerance, it fares well in moisture-conserving landscapes. Choose the site carefully because the tree can be difficult to transplant and it creates litter that may require occasional cleanup.


Plant Characteristics:

Typically grows 40-60’ tall and wide, but can reach 100’ tall in ideal conditions.


Best survival in full sun, though part sun may be tolerated once established. Will not grow in full shade.


Prefers well-drained acidic soil, but tolerates sandy, loamy, clay, dry, and wet soils. Alkaline soils may cause chlorosis.


Yellow-green male catkins and female flowers appear in March or April, followed by 1”, egg-shaped acorns with thick, flat, saucer-shaped caps that cover nearly 1/3 of the nut. Acorns are produced every 2–4 years.


Shiny, dark-green leaves are 4-7” long with bristles on the tips of some of the pointed lobes. Leaves turn red to red orange in fall.


The columnar trunk is often buttressed at the base. Lower branches tend to grow horizontally. Bark is thick, smooth and grayish, becoming dark gray and furrowed with broken ridges with age.


Wildlife Value:

Oaks are a host plant for 477 species of Lepidoptera larvae, including the white furcula moth and red-spotted admiral butterfly. The flowers attract butterflies, and birds feast on the numerous insects. The dense foliage provides cover and nesting sites.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

The bark and acorns of Quercus species have been used for many centuries to treat gastrointestinal tract disorders such as diarrhea and hemorrhoids, and the bark is still used by many indigenous peoples as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, hemostatic and healing agent. Even the galls that form on certain species are ground into powder and used medicinally.


The bitter nuts are edible once the tannins are leached out. They may be ground and used as flour, mixed with cereals for making bread and muffins, roasted and ground to make coffee, or eaten whole.


The wood is considered to be better than that of most red oaks, but it is mixed with other red oak lumber to make flooring, furniture, interior trim, and cabinetry.

Oak, Shumard, Quercus shumardii

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