Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Water Oak, Possum Oak

Water Oak, Possum Oak

Quercus nigra

Full sun; moderately wet to medium moisture level; grows in a range of soils including rich humusy, sandy, sandy loam, medium loam, clay loam and clay; acidic pH.

50-80 feet height by 40-60 feet spread; blooms in spring when the leaves begin to unfold with yellow-green male catkins and inconspicuous female flower spikes; acorns up to ½ inch long in short-stalked cups with woolly scales in fall.

Growth Rate: Fast

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 C(30-40 days at 86-95 degrees F. and 52-73 days at 68-70 degrees F.) Difficult to germinate.

Native Region: Common in Coastal Plain Province and in southern portion of the rest of the state

Medium sized oak with a broad, rounded crown and thick leathery leaves. Insignificant fall color and leaves tend to drop in late fall or early winter, sometimes persisting on the tree for most of the winter. Although it is widely planted as a shade or street tree in southern communities, it is also considered a weed tree in some areas. Short-lived tree that is more weak-wooded and susceptible to wind and ice damage than most oaks. Does not tolerate extended flooding and does not compete well with other species due to its slow early growth.   However, species is still worth considering for its wide tolerance of different soil types. Typically found in low woodland areas, floodplains, and along streams and rivers but will grow on higher upland areas as well. Bears seed at about 20 years of age, and then acorn production seems to fluctuate in alternate years between prolific and lean.

Very high wildlife value. Feeds a wide variety of birds and mammals. Provides nesting sites and shelter for birds. Attracts butterflies. Larval food for the White M Hairstreak butterfly.


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