Nuttall's Oak

Quercus texana

Nuttalls_oak_leaf.jpg

Illustration of Nuttall’s oak leaf.
Nuttall’s oak (Quercus texana) leaf.
Paul Nelson
Species of Conservation Concern
Family

Fagaceae (oaks)

Description

Nuttall's oak is a medium to large-sized tree with a rounded, open crown of spreading branches.

Leaves are alternate, simple, 3–6 inches long, widest above the middle; usually with 7 narrow, long-pointed lobes with 1–5 bristle-tipped teeth; notches between lobes rounded and wide. Upper surface dull green, smooth; lower surface paler with tufts of hairs in the vein axils; leaf stalk rather slender, smooth, ¾–2 inches long.

Bark is gray-brown, smooth; becoming blackish, shallow-grooved and with flat, scaly ridges with age.

Twigs are slender, smooth, green to reddish-brown, turning gray with age.

Flowers April–May, in catkins.

Fruits September–October; acorns solitary or paired, dark brown, usually striped the length of the nut, 1 inch long, oblong; cup covering one-third to five-eighths of the nut, thin, hairy, sloping or stalked at the base, scales small and flattened. Acorns ripen in autumn of the second year.

Size

Height: to 80 feet.

nuttall_oak.jpg

Image of Nuttall's oak.
Nuttall's Oak

Nuttalls_oak_acorn.jpg

Illustration of Nuttall’s oak acorn.
Nuttall’s Oak Acorn
Nuttall’s oak (Quercus texana) 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

In our state, this species grows naturally on the poorly drained clay flats and low, wet bottomland forests of the Bootheel. With its limited range, and with steady destruction of its habitat, it has become rare and imperiled within our borders.

image of Nuttall's Oak distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Southeastern Missouri (the Bootheel); may be cultivated elsewhere. May hybridize with pin oak (Quercus palustris) where their ranges overlap.

Status

A Species of Conservation Concern; rare and imperiled in our state because it lives only in the wet bottomlands in southeastern Missouri, and that habitat has been dwindling as land is drained and converted to crops. The North American range of this species centers along the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico to the Missouri Bootheel, west along the border between Louisiana and Arkansas, and east into Alabama.

Human connections

The lumber is often cut and sold as "red oak" (it is a member of the broad "red oak group" and shares many characteristics with the oaks in that group). This is one of the few commercially important trees that grow in the poorly drained floodplains along the lower Mississippi. The name of this tree honors Thomas Nuttall, a biologist who traveled extensively in North America, including the western United States up the Missouri, only five years after Lewis and Clark's trip. Because most of Lewis and Clark's biological specimens were lost, Nuttall collected many plants that were completely new to science. Nuttall also wrote one of the first complete bird manuals of North America.

Ecosystem connections

Nuttall's oak is a heavy mast producer; "mast" is the term for hard-shelled fruits (nuts) that fall to the forest floor. A variety of wildlife, including many game species such as deer and turkey, rely on mast for winter food. Like all oaks, this species provides homes for a great many animals.