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Swamp Willow Oak


Quercus phellos  (KWER-kus FELL-oss)

Fagaceae (Beech Family)

Deciduous shade tree

HEIGHT:  80 to 100 feet

SPREAD:  40 to 60 feet

FINAL SPACING:  30 to 50 feet

NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE:  Deep, sandy, acid, moist soil of east Texas is the primary habitat. It can grow in clays or loams, often seen along stream bottoms and frequently flooded drainage ways. Will grow in deep clay soils but not above white limestone rock.

IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION:  Willow oak is a graceful tree that is pyramidal when young but spreading with a rounded crown with age. It has narrow, delicate leaves.

FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Flowers are born in the spring, male and female flowers are separate but on the same tree, monoecious, not showy. Fruits are small acorns 2/5 of an inch long that mature in two years appearing solitary or in pairs.

BARK:  Greenish to reddish brown when young, becoming gray and smooth after a few years and developing into a slightly furrowed and textured bark with age, especially at the base of large trees.

FOLIAGE:  Alternate, simple, deciduous, golden leaves with yellow fall color. Leaves are 3 to 5 inches long and ¼ to ½ inch wide with a bristled tip.

CULTURE:  Willow oak needs moist, acid, sandy soils of east Texas and other parts of the state. It will not grow in the alkaline soils especially where white limestone is present. Requires plenty of moisture, but minimal fertilization. Pest problems are few.

PROBLEMS:  Nutrient deficiency and chlorosis resulting from being planted in the improper soil.

PROPAGATION:  From fresh acorns just released from the tree in the fall.

INSIGHT:  Acorns are a favorite of several forms of wildlife. Willow oak is easily confused with its close relatives – the laurel oak and water oak.

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