Swamp Chestnut Oak (Basket Oak)

Quercus michauxii

swamp_chestnut_oak_leaf.jpg

Illustration of swamp chestnut oak leaf.
Swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii) leaf.
Paul Nelson
Edible
Other Common Name
Cow Oak
Family

Fagaceae (oaks)

Description

Swamp chestnut oak is a medium to large tree with a wide, rounded crown and bark resembling that of white oak.

Leaves are alternate, simple, 4–8 inches long, broadest above the middle, margin with large, rounded or sometimes sharp teeth; tip pointed. Upper surface dark green, shiny, smooth; lower surface whitish, velvety; leaf stalk ¾ inch long. Leaves turn reddish- or yellowish-brown in fall.

Bark is light gray or tan, with scaly plates on mature trees; inner bark reddish.

Twigs are moderately stout, smooth, reddish-brown.

Flowers April–May, in catkins.

Fruits September–October, acorns solitary or in pairs; brown, shiny, broadest near the base, gradually tapering to a rounded tip, large, to 1½ inches long; cup covering a third to a half of the nut, bowl-shaped with matted silky hair, scales wedge-shaped, hard, stout, hairy, attached only at the base and overlapping, giving a somewhat fringed appearance. Nut sweet, edible; ripening in autumn of the first year.

Size

Height: to 100 feet.

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swamp chestnut oak
Swamp Chestnut Oak

swamp_chestnut_oak_acorn.jpg

Illustration of swamp chestnut oak acorn.
Swamp Chestnut Oak (Basket Oak) Acorn
Swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii) 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.

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 Jennifer Weaver stands in front of a Missouri Champion swamp chestnut oak
Missouri's new champion Swamp Chestnut Oak tree
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in moist soils of bottomland forests in large valleys and depressions, bordering slow-moving streams, sloughs, and swamps; in Missouri, found principally in the southeastern (Bootheel) lowlands.

image of Swamp Chestnut Oak Basket Oak distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

A southern species, its range barely extends into Missouri; it is found only in our far southeastern counties.

Human connections

This tree is also called basket oak, because the wood splits easily into long strips and is excellent for making baskets. The acorn is one of the sweetest of all the oaks and can be eaten raw. Also called cow oak because cattle particularly relish the nuts. This tree was also used medicinally.

Ecosystem connections

Oak acorns fall to the forest floor and contribute to what is called "hard mast," the various nuts that are eaten by wildlife. Hard mast is particularly important as a fall and winter food for many game species, including turkey and deer. Years with less hard mast result in lower wildlife numbers.