Cherrybark Oak

Quercus pagoda

cherrybark_oak_leaf.jpg

Illustration of cherrybark oak leaf.
Cherrybark oak (Quercus pagoda) leaf.
Paul Nelson
Family

Fagaceae (oaks)

Description

Cherrybark oak is a medium to large tree with a straight, branch-free trunk and an open, rounded crown.

Leaves are alternate, simple, 6–7 inches long; margin with 5–11 lobes; top of lobes at right angles to the central vein, fairly evenly spaced and uniform in size, bristle-tipped, notches between lobes shallow; shiny dark green above, pale and with whitish, yellowish or grayish hairiness below. Leaf stalks often flattened. Leaves often have a drooping appearance. Turn reddish-brown in fall.

Bark is gray to black with scaly, narrow ridges similar to the bark of black cherry.

Twigs are moderately stout, slightly grooved, dark red, smooth.

Flowers April–May, in catkins.

Fruits September–October, acorns single or in pairs; nut light brown, broadest at the base and rounded at the top, ½ inch wide and long, cup covering a third of the nut, shallow; scales reddish-brown with a dark border, flattened, hairy; seed bitter; ripen in autumn of second year.

Key Identifiers
  • Bark resembles that of a cherry tree.
  • When you hold a leaf with the leaf stalk upward, the pointed lobes make the leaf resemble an outline of a Chinese pagoda.
  • Grows naturally in Missouri's Bootheel.
Size

Height: to 100 feet.

cherrybark_oak_leaf.jpg

Image of a cherrybark oak leaf
Cherrybark Oak

cherrybark_oak.jpg

Image of a cherrybark oak bark
Cherrybark Oak

cherrybark_oak_acorn.jpg

Illustration of cherrybark oak acorn.
Cherrybark Oak Acorn
Cherrybark oak (Quercus pagoda) acorn.

Oak _Quercus_spp_Flowers.jpg

Illustration of oak flowers and catkins, male and female.
Oak Flowers
All oak flowers are similar in appearance and emerge in early spring as the new leaves are expanding. Male and female flowers appear on the same tree.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in bottomland forests of southeast Missouri. It prefers rich, well-drained bottomland soils. It is among the largest of the southern oaks. This species is not commonly available for sale but is native to southeast Missouri. In central Missouri and farther north, winter damage is possible, but this is an excellent oak for southern areas. It can endure poor, dry soils.

image of Cherrybark Oak distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

In Missouri, this tree grows wild only in our far southeastern counties. The home range of this species is mostly south and east of Missouri, to Virginia, Florida, and Texas.

Status

Formerly considered a variety of southern red oak called Quercus falcata pagodafolia. It prefers wetter sites than southern red oak and attains a larger, statelier size. Other differences include the shape of the leaf notches (V-shaped in cherrybark, U-shaped in southern red oak); and the symmetry of the leaves (cherrybark oak leaves are more symmetrical). The bark in mature trees is another big difference (that of southern red oak is broken into deep grooves and ridges and is not scaly).

Human connections

An excellent large shade tree for landscaping. Its wood is rated superior to any of the other oaks in the southern United States and is used for pulp, fuel, veneer, cabinets, furniture, crates, and boxes. This tree has several historic medicinal uses among Native Americans.

Ecosystem connections

The acorns are eaten by many species of birds and mammals, as well as by many insects. Cherrybark oak, like all big trees, offers important cover, nesting, and den habitat both when it is alive and after it has died. Hundreds of plants require the shady habitat created by the forest canopy.