Scrub Oak

Scrub_Oak_jpgMore than 200 species of oaks grow in the world, 60 of these occurring in the USA.  In general, the oaks are divided into two main groups: the red oaks and the white oaks.   The red oaks have bristle-tipped leaves and acorns that take two years to mature. The white oaks have rounded lobes and acorns that mature in one season.  Scrub Oak is a red oak. Although the Scrub Oak is not an important timber tree, it is important as a pioneer tree on burned-over land.  The Scrub Oak bears large crops of acorns and is quick to propagate in open areas, forming thickets and providing cover for the seed of the next forest.   The Scrub Oak prevents erosion of exposed soils. Acorns rate at or very near the top of the wildlife food list not because they are preferred food items but because they are abundantly available.  Their greatest value is in the winter season when other food source are scarce.   In addition to their food value, oaks provide wildlife cover.  Many retain their leaves through the winter making them nesting material for birds. Oaks are the most important group of broad-leaf timber trees.  In addition, oaks are among the best shade trees planted along city streets and about our homes.


Bear Oak, Ground Oak, Barren Oak


Quercus ilicifolia






Shrub to small tree


3 to 10 feet


August and September of 2nd year


Maine to North Carolina ~ Statewide in New Jersey, abundant in the Pine Barrens


Early to late May


Leaves alternate, simple, 2-5 inches long, 1 to 1 2/3 inches wide, broadest near tip, 5-7 lobes, often 3-lobed at tip, tips bristly, thick, leathery, shiny dark green above, light grayish green beneath with dense brownish hairs along veins and midrib ~ Twigs slender, greenish brown and hairy when young, becoming dark brown and smooth, buds round ~ Flowers monoecious (male and female on same individual), male hairy red catkin 4-5 inches long, female stout red spikes ~ Fruit (acorn) ½ inch, broad, ovoid, flat rounded base enclosed halfway by red-brown scaly cup, fringed border, mature in 2 years ~ Bark thin, smooth, dark brown