If you visit any park across the United States, you’re very likely to see many oak trees with squirrels scampering around them. The trees serve as shelter and shade for the squirrels but are also an important food source. Every year, acorns from oak trees feed millions of squirrels and other animal species.
Acorns and the oak trees they come from are iconic in this country. They’re found in almost every corner of every state. The acorns are seeds from the tree that, under the right conditions, will grow into a new large oak tree years down the road.
Now, it’s easy to think that all oak trees are the same and that acorns only come from one type of tree. However, there are many kinds of oak trees, and some thrive in certain climates, which is why you’ll only see them in certain parts of the country.
Here are eleven oak trees that make acorns and some details that differentiate them from one another. If you’re looking to add oak trees to your property for shade or wildlife, here are some options to help you make the best choice!
Oak Trees and Acorns
Here are some common questions we get about oak trees and acorns. Read on to learn more about these magnificent trees.
Are Acorns Unique to Oak Trees?
Only mature oak trees produce acorns. However, sometimes it takes decades for an oak tree to produce its first acorns. This might seem like a long time, but these trees can live to be hundreds of years old.
Do All Oak Trees Have Acorns?
Every type of oak tree will, at some point, produce acorns.
Are Acorns Edible?
They’re edible to squirrels and birds. But can humans eat acorns? The only issue with eating acorns is that raw acorns have tannins, which can be toxic to humans and other animals.
Do Oak Trees Produce Acorns Every Year?
Most oak trees produce acorns every year. Some even produce acorn crops a few times a year. However, some species, like the white oak, will only make acorns every five years or so.
Do Maple Trees Have Acorns?
No, maples do not produce acorns. Some people confuse oak trees with maple trees, but only oak trees have acorns.
11 Oak Trees with Acorns
There are over thirty types of oak trees that produce acorns. We’ve put together this list of eleven oak trees to highlight some of the most common and interesting oak species you’ll find. There are many more oak trees than those on this list, but this is the perfect place to start. So, let’s get to it!
1. Pin Oaks
These oak trees have leaves with pointed tips and cavities shaped like a U. Their acorns have a lovely brown and reddish hue but only grow every two years. Waiting is no big deal; the problem is that their acorns tend to be more bitter than other oak acorns.
Pin oaks grow to around 70 feet tall, which is a medium height for oak trees. They have a unique branch structure in that the branches grow upward on the top, outward in the middle, and downward on the lower part of the tree, making it hard to see the tree’s trunk from a distance.
Pin oaks belong to the red oak group because they have pointed leaf lobes.
2. Black Oak Trees
Black oaks are more spreading and usually grow to around 100ft tall. They have thinner trunks with shiny green leaves. Their bark is dark grey, but inside the bark is a rich red color.
The leaves on black oak trees have rounded lobes and are wider at the top than at the stem. They belong to the white-black oak group because of this leaf shape. They form wide, spreading crowns with dense branching.
3. The Northern Red Oak
Northern reds are majestic oak trees growing to around 90 feet tall. The trees are known for their beautiful red to burgundy fall color. The leaves are large with pointed lobes and shallower U-shaped cavities than a pin oak. Whitish streaks can be seen between bark plates on large, mature trees.
Red oaks are one of the most common and popular trees in the U.S., and you probably see them along your local highways and streets. They are part of the red oak group.
4. Water Oaks
Some people love water oak trees because their leaves stay on for months longer than other oak leaves. Generally, you can expect your water oak trees’ leaves to fall off mid-winter rather than sometime in autumn.
Their leaves are a beautiful green that tends to grow in smaller clusters for denser foliage. This is an excellent tree for people who don’t love seeing empty trees in the winter.
5. The Scarlet Oak
Scarlet oak trees are among the most stunning oak trees you’ll ever see. They have deeply lobed leaves that resemble the letter “C” and grow anywhere from 60 to 100 feet tall.
Scarlet oaks are very similar in appearance to pin oaks, but lack the pin oak’s unique branch structure. The two species can be used interchangeably in the landscape for similar purposes. Scarlet’s are a medium oak tree that fits perfectly on college campuses and in city parks.
6. The Willow Oak Tree
The willow oak has distinctive leaves that look very different from prototypical oak leaves. They’re rounder, without the characteristic notches most oak trees have.
Willow oaks are medium in size and grow quickly, which is why you’ll see many of them in newer housing developments.
7. Eastern White Oaks
Eastern whites are enormous trees that grow well over 100 feet tall. They have vast canopies that can give readers, walkers, or playing children plenty of shade. Squirrels and other small animals also love to call these trees home.
White oaks have rounded lobes on their leaves that are very top-heavy in shape (the stem end of the leaf is narrow compared to the opposite end). Given their size, they produce a lot of acorns and are known for high-quality hardwood and majestic presence in the landscape.
8. Sand Post Oak Trees
Sand post oaks are among the smallest white oaks in the country. They grow to a very manageable 40 ft and can do very well in sandy soil and other less than ideal soil conditions, which is why you’ll often see them in southern states.
9. The Live Oak Tree
This is a massive, sprawling oak tree with glossy green leaves that feel leathery to the touch. Live oaks produce very dark acorns in an oval shape. They only grow to around 80 feet at most but also grow to over 100 feet wide. Many live oak trees will be only 50 feet tall and even more expansive!
One interesting fact about live oaks is that the underside of the leaves is covered with fuzzy down. Live oaks are often seen with bunches of Spanish moss hanging from their branches in southern states.
10. Swamp Chestnut Oak Tree
Don’t let the name fool you; this oak tree produces only acorns. But these acorns are round and edible. They are medium-sized oak trees, growing to just over 60 ft on average. The swamp chestnut oak has ruffled leaves with rounded edges and scaly grey bark.
11. Southern Red Oak (Spanish Oak)
Southern reds, or Spanish oaks, are giant oak trees that grow up to 100 feet tall, depending on who you ask. They do best in sandy soil with good sun exposure.
This is another species of the oak tree that is more common in hotter, southern states of the U.S. One thing that makes these oaks unique is that their acorns are orange.
There are dozens of other kinds of oak trees, each with defining characteristics that make them better suited to some regions of the country and settings. Oaks range widely in size, shape, leaf form and fall color, and acorn attributes. Depending on where you live and why you want one, there are many oak species to choose from.