Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Pin Oak, Swamp Oak

Pin Oak, Swamp Oak

Quercus palustris


Full sun; moderately wet to medium moisture level; prefers rich organic soils but does well in silty clay loams and hard compact clay soils; moderately acid to slightly acid pH and does not tolerate high neutral pH where it is very subject to iron chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves where veins remain green).

60-70 feet height by 25-40 feet spread; blooms in spring with drooping, yellow-green, 2-3 inch long male catkins and inconspicuous yellowish green female spikes; reddish brown, short, squat acorns, ½ inch long, in fall. Acorns require 16-18 months to develop to maturity.

Growth Rate: Medium to fast; one of the faster growing oaks at 30 feet in 12-15 years.

Maintenance: All oaks are susceptible to a large number of diseases, including oak wilt, oak leaf blister, cankers, leaf spots and powdery mildew. Potential insect pests including scale, oak skeletonizer, leaf miner, oak lace bugs, borers, caterpillars and nut weevils. Notwithstanding these problems, oaks are generally considered to be low maintenance trees. Weed competition must be managed for the first few years.

Propagation: Seed germination code C(30-45) at 32-41 degrees F. Easy to transplant due to its shallow, fibrous root system.

Native Region: Scattered counties statewide excluding the Blue Ridge Province

Medium sized oak with a straight trunk and spreading, horizontal branches. Perhaps the most popular commercial oak of eastern North America. Widely planted as both a street and landscape tree. Fall leaf color ranges from red to burgundy and can be quite attractive. Easy to grow when planted in average, medium to wet, acidic soils in full sun. In the wild, lower branches are often shaded by other trees, eventually dying and breaking off leaving pin-like stubs, hence the common name. Grows under a wide range of conditions but is a true bottomland tree. Likes wet, shallow sites with heavy soils that drain poorly. On better quality sites, it will grow large but will likely be out competed by other species. Occurs naturally in valleys, floodplains and stream edges but sometimes also occurs on drier upland sites. May not produce its first crop of acorns until 15-20 years of age. Cultivars available.

Very high wildlife value. Attracts a wide variety of songbirds, game birds including ducks and wild turkey, small mammals, and deer. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Larval host plant for Gray Hairstreak butterfly.


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