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Quercus nigra

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Plant types and subtypes: Trees & Shrubs, Trees, Deciduous

Light Requirements: sun, part-sun

Water Use: medium

Soil Moisture: moist, wet

Soil Description: acid, rich, average, loam, clay, sand

Height: 50'-75'

Bloom Time: April, May

Bloom Color: yellow, green

Leaf Color: green, blue-green

Hardiness Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

Additional Tags: attracts birds, fall interest, ornamental foliage, pond margin plant, semi-deciduous, shade tree, showy fruit, stream margin plant, swamp plant, wetland plant

Quercus nigra (water oak)
  • Quercus nigra (water oak)
  • Quercus nigra (water oak)
  • Quercus nigra (water oak)
  • Quercus nigra (water oak)

Pricing & Availability


Quercus nigra

Also known as:

water oak


possum oak


spotted oak


striped oak


pin oak


duck oak


punk oak


orange oak

Scientific Synonyms:

Quercus microcarya


Quercus nigra is a medium-sized oak that can grow to 100', but more commonly stays between 50'to 75'. It is semi-evergreen in the southern par of its range, deciduous in the north where its foliage will turn shades of yellow in fall. The leaves are glossy, green to blue-green, spatula-shaped, and slightly wavy or lobed. The bark of mature trees is dark gray to black, and usually spotted. Male flowers are in the form of showy, greenish catkins. The acorns of this species are easy to recognize by their dark brown, almost black color.


Quercus nigra is primarily found in lowland, moist to wet forests. This is a fast growing but short lived species with a lifespan of 60 to 80 years. It is found in low ling areas, flood plains and swamp margins. It withstands periods of seasonal inundation, but does not like extended exposure to water. It does best in well-drained soil, that will quickly dry out after being flooded. Tolerates, but does less well in heavy clays and poorly-drained soil. It does not produce a taproot, and can be easily transplanted. Can be grown as a shade tree. Blooms in April or May. Zones 7-10


Sow fresh acorns in fall. These should be protected from squirrels as they will not germinate until the following spring.

Additional Notes

Due to its rapid growth, branches of the swamp oak can be weak and susceptible to breaking under heavy snow or ice. Lumber is commercially sold as red oak. Unlike acorns from white oaks, those of the black oak don't germinate until spring, and are therefore an important source of winter food for a variety of birds and mammals.

Native Range & Classification

Recorded County Distribution: USDA data

Native Range:

USDA Endangered Status:

  • Endangered: NJ


Kingdom Plantae Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons
Subclass Hamamelididae
Order Fagales
Family Fagaceae Beech family
Genus Quercus oak
Species Quercus nigra water oak