Swamp White Oak

A tree that is sometimes confused with a white oak, since it is quite similar in appearance, is the swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor.) Swamp white oaks are normally found in lowland areas and along streams in association with trees like pin oak, red and silver maple, sycamore, and black walnut. Swamp white oak is in the white oak family, with acorns that mature in one year and germination soon after falling off the tree. These are long lived trees, with an average lifespan of 300 years or more. Swamp white oak also grows fairly quickly, and will attain a large size, exceeding 100 feet in height, and five feet in diameter.

Swamp white oak has a sweet, edible acorn that is a favorite of squirrels and wood ducks. The lumber is similar to white oak, containing chemicals that seal up the pores in the wood (“tyloses”), which make the wood resistant to rot, and fairly watertight. Differentiating swamp white oak from white oak is a bit tricky, but swamp white oak’s bark has more shades of grey than the white oak’s bark; the underside of the leaves have a hairy texture; and these trees are normally found on wetter sites relative to its white oak cousin.

Swamp white oak is often used for streamside plantings, because it grows much quicker than a white oak, withstands fairly wet conditions, resists foraging by deer since it is not as palatable as the other oaks, and produces acorns at a fairly young age. For these reasons, swamp white oaks are usually well represented in tree plantings. There are some large swamp white oaks growing alongside the upper reaches of Middle Creek, around Wolfsville and Foxville in Frederick County.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature note for 6/26/21