Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Swamp White Oak

Swamp White Oak

Quercus bicolor


Full sun; wet to medium moisture level; grows in a range of soils including fine sandy loams, fine sandy clays, silty clay and stiff hard pan clay; requires acidic soil or will develop iron chlorosis (a yellowing of the leaves while the veins remain green).

60-80 feet height by 30-40 feet spread; blooms in May with male flowers in pendulous catkins, 2-3 inches long, and with inconspicuous female flowers in green to red spikes; tan brown acorns, ¾ to 1 ½ inches long, in fall.

Growth Rate: Medium to fast, slowing with maturity. One of the faster growing oaks.

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. Seeds may germinate the same season as falling. Unlike many oaks, it has a fibrous root system rather than a deep taproot and therefore is easier to transplant.

Native Region: Primarily Middle and East Tennessee with very limited presence in West Tennessee

Large canopy tree with broad, rounded crown and short trunk. Fall color is yellow and sometimes reddish purple. Native to swamp forests of river bottoms, stream banks, depressions, borders of ponds, lakes and swamps, and moist peaty flats. Also occurs on moist slopes and on poorly drained uplands. Not drought tolerant but will tolerate significant soil compaction as well as heavy, low-oxygen soils. Seed production begins at 20-30 years of age, and good seed crops are produced every 3-5 years. Cultivars available.

Very high wildlife value. Provides food for a wide variety of songbirds, game birds, turkey, ducks and mammals.


One response to “Swamp White Oak

  1. Hugh Conlon March 13, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    I love this tree. Over the past decade swamp white oak is starting to catch on and nurseries are growing more of them. ‘Beacon’ Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor Beacon) deserves better recognition. It is a tightly columnar tree with upright growth and foliage that is much cleaner disease-wise than the species. Fall color is yellow and persists for two to four weeks, depending on how hard the wind blows. With a height of 30 to 40 feet and a spread of 12 to 15 feet.
    As with oak species acorns can become a messy problem.

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