Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Swamp Chestnut Oak, Cow Oak, Basket Oak

Swamp Chestnut Oak, Cow Oak, Basket Oak

Quercus michauxii

Full to part sun; wet to medium moisture level; adaptable to a wide range of soils including deep rich loam, sandy loam, sandy, clay loam and clay; acidic pH.

60-80 feet height by 50-70 feet spread; blooms in spring with yellow-green, 2-4 inch long male catkins and inconspicuous green to reddish female spikes; light brown acorns up to 1 inch long and each nut is covered, 1/3 to ½, by a cup with hairy scales, in fall. Acorns require two seasons to mature.

Growth Rate: Moderate

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.

Propagation: Seed germination code A. Plant immediately following seedfall. Partial shade is beneficial to germination. Unlike many oaks, it has a fibrous root system rather than a deep taproot and therefore is easier to transplant.

Native Region: Statewide with greatest concentration in Coastal Plain Province

Large canopy tree with a compact, rounded crown and chestnut-like foliage. Stately tree that deserves more consideration for use in the landscape. One of the best oaks for fall color with yellow to vibrant red foliage in fall. Good oak for low-lying areas and occurs naturally in silty floodplains, swampy areas, rich sandy lowland woods, and along streams. However, it does not tolerate poor drainage or long periods of flooding. Tolerates compaction better than most oaks. Acorns are not produced until about 20-25 years of age, and good seed crops occur every 3-5 years. Acorns are sweet-tasting and can be eaten directly from the tree, whereas acorns on most oaks must be boiled first to remove the tannic acid. Tree is allelopathic, meaning it produces chemicals which are toxic to other plants growing around it, which makes it difficult to grow anything under the tree.

Very high wildlife value. Attracts a variety of birds and mammals, including deer, turkey, wild hogs, black bear, squirrels, chipmunks and woodpeckers. Livestock including cows also eat the acorns, hence one of the common names. Attracts butterflies and is larval food for the White M Hairstreak butterfly.


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