Tree of the Month: Swamp White Oak

Scientific Name: Quercus bicolor

The swamp white oak is one of the less common oak species in Ontario, due to its preference for moist, rich soils and sunny, open canopy habitats. However, swamp white oak can quite adaptable to other habitat conditions and is a long-lived, slow-growing tree.

The latin ‘bicolor’ in its name refers to the colour of the leaves, which are dark green on top with fuzzy white undersides. Swamp white oaks can live for hundreds of years and its quality wood is used for furniture . They also produce small acorns that are edible for humans and wildlife.

This tree can be found in some parts of southwestern Ontario, as well as the Niagara Region, and parts of eastern Ontario.

Swamp white oaks have flat-ridged trunks up to 90 centimeters in diameter and can grow to a height of 100 feet (30.5 meters). Mature leaves are 12-17 centimeters in length and turn golden-brown to russet red in the fall.

Fun Facts:

  • Swamp white oaks can grow a two-tier root system in wet areas. It will use the upper layer when soil is wet, and will resort to deeper roots in drier conditions.
  • Acorns with caps intact are not suitable for planting.
  • Acorns from white oaks are much sweeter and tastier than those from red oaks. So if you are planning to collect seed, collect it before the squirrels get there!
  • Animals that rely on this tree as a food source include wood ducks, deer, turkey, and rodents such as squirrels.