Burr Oaks, Quercus Macrocarpa
The first oak species to profile, as a part of the oak tree series, would have to be the Burr Oak, Latin name Quercus macrocarpa.
Why? Besides being an interesting and majestic tree, it is the one native to the area in which I now garden. A tree which thrives where other oaks may not. One of the reasons it grows so well in these prairie lands is that it prefers to grow in the open, it is also resistant to fire and drought, both of which occur with regularity in a prairie environment.
In my rural area the most common way to see Burr Oaks growing is in oak savannas, which are stands of oak trees on the better drained soils of the (former) tall grass prairie. They have Shagbark hickories as their most common companions. Craggy trees with wide spreading branches, they look like they could have marched out of the movies with feature talking trees- “The Wizard of Oz” or “Lord of the Rings” Ents.
What may surprise you to know is that the Burr Oak is considered a good tree for urban areas, being tolerant of city conditions and relatively fast growers(we are speaking about oaks, after all).
The Latin species name comes from the fact that the acorns are very large, macrocarpa means “large fruit”.
Burr Oak Habitat:
Open land, prairies, tendency to grow on drier ground, but will also do well on moister sites as demonstrated by its growth in flood-plain forests; a tall grass prairie where it thrives in my area, would often have very wet spring, but quite dry later in the growing season. It tends to be associated with calcareous soils, alkaline in pH. It is a tough tree which will grow in less than ideal conditions.
Detailed Quercus macrocarpa information
Learn of the Prairie environment.
Burr Oak Look:
The twigs and branches have corky ridges and that give the tree some of its craggy look. The branches tend to grow in wide spread with a zig-zag look to them. The leaves are simple, alternate and lobed with the top part of the leaf looking wider and more round and the parts nearer the stem much narrower- something of a “body builder” silhouette.
I planted a container grown Quercus macrocarpa and it is doing well in a far corner of my property. container grown oaks are planted in the same way as any other shade tree. Planting directions for shade trees.
Links for choosing, siting, and plantings trees:
Trees This index page of trees points you to many interesting posts and pages about growing trees in your garden.
Even Mighty Oaks May Fall
Here is a picture I took after Hurricane Ike went through. Many giant Burr oaks (as well as giant trees of other types) fell all over the state of Ohio. Some natural disasters occur and no amount of control can stave off loss of trees or worse. There are still a large number of Quercus macrocarpa that survived and continue to grow in this savanna.
Wild life support:
“Acorns of bur oak make up much of the food of red squirrels and are also eaten by wood ducks, white-tailed deer, New England cottontails, mice, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, and other rodents ” `.ibid
Source for the Bur Oak:
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from: Nature Hills Nursery, Inc.