Monday, September 17, 2007

Tree ID - Shingle Oak

Despite years of studying oak trees, this species was a complete mystery to me until this fall. I guess because it doesn't "look" like an oak tree I've overlooked it. Rambuck and I were out scouting in Tennessee and collecting tree pictures when he looked up in a tree with his binoculars and said, "look at all the acorns in that tree." I looked up with my binoculars and declared matter-of-factly, "that's not an oak tree, look at the leaves." This is what we saw:

Well, I was flat out wrong! It is an oak tree called a shingle oak. Interestingly enough, I was in Kentucky a couple weeks later and found several more, all bearing acorns. It's amazing what you see when you know what you are looking for.


Shingle oaks grow from about Middle Tennessee up to the southern tip of the Great Lakes in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Western Pennsylvania. They are found in moist soils near water, often growing with post oaks and black oaks.


The bark is smooth in small trees but becomes rough and deeply furrowed in larger trees. You'll have to forgive the poison ivy on this specimen. It was the only one I had available to photograph.


Identification of this tree based on the leaves is pretty easy. They are 3" - 6" long and shaped like a spear tip. They are shiny green on top with a yellow mid-vein.


The nuts that are pictured here are still immature. The acorn shell will grow out further from the cap in a fully-developed specimen, but you can get the sense of how small they are.


If you are looking for a handy field guide that you can throw in your pack the next time you are out scouting, I recommend either or both of these books. I use both because often one will have a better photo or illustration than the other and two points of reference always helps. If you don't want to spend the cash for two books, I'd give a slight edge to the Peterson's Guide.

Next post: the Persimmon.

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