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There are many different types of oak tree all around the world. These trees can be split into two categories, red oaks and white oaks
The leaves, bark, and shape of these trees will give away if they are white or red oaks.
These are a common species of tree sound in many forests and parks in temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. As they are very elegant looking they are prized agricultural beauties in many landscapes.
About Oak Trees
Overall there are about 450 different species of oak tree, 58 of these are found in North America. Most of these are deciduous, which means that in the fall they will shed their leaves. That being said, there are some evergreen oaks as well.
These are very tall trees, able to reach up to 100 foot tall, or higher. They are also very broad, able to grow to 135 feet in width as well.
They grow fruits, or what we know as acorns, which fall to the ground in a leathery shell. Oaks usually only start producing these after they are mature at a few decades old, and they can produce thousands of these every year!
Varieties Of Oak Tree
Oak trees are divided into either white oaks or red oaks. The red variety will have a dark bark color and their leaves will typically be pointed and have lobes and bristles. Alternatively, white oak bark will usually be more of gray color, and their leaves are rounded with no bristles.
This is often one of the easiest ways to distinguish between the two types of tree, so when confronted with an oak tree, look at its leaves to see if they have bristles or not.
Let’s define these two a bit more.
Red oaks will often be covered in lobed leaves, they will have pointy tips and small bristles on their tips. Red oak acorns will typically take around two full years to mature, although their taste is not palatable.
Red oak leaves will also usually measure around 12-22 centimeters in length.
Alternatively, white oaks will have leaves with lobed and rounded tips instead of pointed ones. These leaves also do not have bristles.
Acorns that are growing on a white oak will take only one year to fully mature, and their taste is much more palatable, being rather sweet, or sometimes bitter. The leaves that grow on these trees are around the same length as they are on red oaks.
Now, we also need to consider the bark of these trees too. The bark found on a young oak is much smoother and will have a silver tinge to its typically brown bark. As these trees grow older their bark starts to fissure, it will develop grooves and ridges as we are used to seeing.
However, it depends on the species, as in some oak trees, the bark may become a light gray color, really dark, or almost black as is commonly seen in some species of red oak.
Then, the leaves on these trees. Their leaves can typically be identified by their lobes. White oaks will have tips that are rounded, whereas red oaks will have pointed tips on their leaves.
White oak leaves will also have round lobes and tips, with no bristles, however, they may also have rounded serrations on the edges of their leaves.
Alternatively red oaks will usually have pointed lobed leaves that have bristles at the tips. There will be more variety in the shapes of the leaves with red oaks, as some leaves will have an almost tooth-like edge, whereas some may be smooth.
The acorns of white oaks mature much quicker than red oaks. With white oak acorns only taking one year, while red oak acorns take two years.
Red oaks acorns are much larger than white oaks, perhaps due to how long they take to mature.
White acorns are more palatable than red oak acorns, as they taste sweet, while red acorns are unpleasantly bitter.
How To Identify Oak Trees
In order to tell if a tree that you encounter is an oak tree, check to see if its bark has deep fissures in it that makes it look like it has scales.
The color of mark with oak will range from a white-gray to a near black color.
Leaves are another way to identify oak trees, as their lobed leaves with pointed or rounded tips will help to give away that they are an oak.
Look at their detailing.
This means understanding what each type of oak looks like, so you can identify them individually.
Let’s help you.
Red Oak Types
Let’s start with the red oaks.
This type of tree will go to a maximum height of 22 meters. Their branches grow in a way that makes the trunk barely noticeable, as these branches droop downwards.
You will notice its upper canopy is distinguished by its spreading growth.
A young pin oak will have red-gray bark, however over time this becomes rougher and more gray as the tree starts to get older.
These trees have glossy gorgeous green leaves with deep lobes and a pointed tip. Every lobe will have small teeth. These leaves also have no hairs.
A water oak can grow up to 30 meters high, and its leaves will not start to drop until the middle of winter. Their leaves are easy to notice as their dull-green color is situated on a rounded rip, and they will grow in clusters.
The bark of these trees will start off as smooth, however, as it ages it will get scaly and turn almost black.
Their leaves are not consistent, as they can be round or even oblong and spoon-like, but they can also have three lobes and bristled tips.
A black oak tree will also grow to be 30 meters tall. These oaks have a very dense foliage which will grow to be a flat-topped crown. You can identify these trees as they have deep lobed, glossy leaves.
This species of oak does have a unique feature, as its inner bark is orange whereas its outer bark is a dark gray color.
The bark of these trees will have very shallow fissures. It also has a scaly gray-black color to its bark.
The black-oak tree will also have shiny, deep green leaves. The leaves will have U-shaped notches in them and lobes that are pointed. Underneath the leaves you will find very fine hairs.
This type of tree is one of the tallest, reaching up to 40 meters tall. Not surprisingly, it is also one of the fastest growers too.
This tree gets its name from its bark, which is not dissimilar to a black cherry tree.
These trees have a scaly, dark gray bark which is easily noticed by its very narrow ridges.
One of the easiest ways to notice these trees is by their haphazard leaves. The lobes on these leaves are arranged messily. However, looking closer at a leaf, you will find them to be shiny, deep green, and smooth with very delicate hairs beneath.
Northern Red Oak
Northern red, or Champion oak as it is sometimes known, can grow up to 28 meters tall, sometimes more. They are tall and upright, with lobed foliage, however, the leaves of this tree are less lobed than other red oaks are.
This type of oak is the most common one found in North America. Hence, its name.
The bark of these trees are unique as it has rather shiny stripes inside its fissures. Its bark color is also a deep brown or sometimes a red-gray color.
These trees have deep green leaves that are lobed and smooth with tiny teeth on the lobe tips.
Scarlet oak trees are medium in size, they usually grow between 20 and 30 meters tall. They are similar looking to pin oaks, or sometimes black oaks. The difference in leaf shape will help you to discover which is which.
Whereas the others have a U shaped notch, scarlet oaks have a C shaped notch instead.
Scarlet oaks are irregularly shaped, with scaly ridges and very delicate fissures in its bark.
These leaves have C shaped notches with bristled and toothed tips.
Southern Red Oak
Southern red oaks are also known as Spanish oaks. They thrive in sandy soil and full sun, growing from 25 to 30 meters high.
Their most prominent feature is their acorns which are a luscious orange-brown color and are smaller than you would find on other oaks.
These oak trees have a very deep gray bark with shaped plates and ridges.
Southern red oaks will have narrow leaves that have deep lobes and very large gaps between the lobes.
Japanese oaks are the smallest oak, they are also an evergreen oak as well. They are usually no more than 14 meters tall.
They have ovate leaves that are narrow and smooth. Their bark is also smooth, which really differentiates it from other oak trees.
The bark of these trees is a dark gray and is very smooth. This is its most defining factor and will help you to easily distinguish it from other types of oak.
With glossy green ovate leaves that are finely rounded at the tip with a length point, this tree is very easy to identify, possibly the easiest to identify on this list.
Laurel oaks are semi-evergreen, growing to a maximum height of 24 meters. They are native to the eastern United States, and they do very well in soggy soil. This is a reason why they are also often known as swamp laurel oaks as well.
The bark of these trees is a deep brown with very shallow fissures and edges which are rough.
The leaves on this tree are shaped like diamonds, sometimes you may find them to be lobed. Often this tree will take on the name ‘ diamond-leaf’.
Willow oaks are medium in size, and they can grow up to 30 meters tall. They grow very fast, at around 0.6 meters per year. They will also have a very dense crown when they are fully matured.
The bark of these trees is rough and a grayish brown which will start to gain fissures as it grows older.
The leaves of this tree are smooth, lanceolate, and narrow, they also have points. These leaves will help to make it obviously different from other trees in the oak family. This is because it lacks lobes and teeth.
These oaks are sprawling evergreens, they have a gray bark when the tree is in its young years, however, its bark will become furrowed very deeply when it is aged.
It has shiny deep green leaves, and very narrowed pointed acorns.
It lives in California, and is recognized by it having a branching rounded crown. It lives to be around 25 meters tall.
The acorns are one of its most defining features as it has a very thin egg -like shape. The nuts inside are also very dark. It is unlike many other oaks as its acorns can be harvested within only 7 months!
Its leaves look more like holly leaves than oak leaves. They are glossy and green and oval shaped. These leaves will develop in spring and will grow about 2.7 cm long. When it is in bloom, it will also produce strings of a yellow-green flowering stem.
The bark of these trees start off smooth but will furrow as it ages.
The leaves of this tree are oval and have sharp spines with a leather-like feel.
This is a very small oak that will only reach 10 meters high. They live in poor quality oil where other oaks will not live. They form a rounded crown as they age.
These trees have a dark gray bark and irregular patterning.
The leaves of the turkey oak are deep green and have very distinctive lobes that make the end of the leaf look like a turkey’s foot.
In fall these trees turn red and brown.
White Oak Types
Now, let’s look at some white oaks.
Eastern White Oak
Eastern whites are huge, growing up to 30 meters tall. Their canopy is big and spreads out. This tree is loved for its hardwood.
The bark of this oak is a white-gray that has very narrow fissures. You should look for scales that overlap halfway up its trunk as a distinctive feature.
Eastern white’s have deep lobed, rounded tipped, obovate leaves.
These trees are also known as ‘common oaks’, they grow up to 21 meters, and can be defined by having a sizable spread and a thick trunk which can be around 12 meters in diameter!
The bark of this tree has deep fissures which cover all its bark and its branches.
The leaves of this tree are small and round and have very smooth edges. They have the classical shape of a tree that produces acorns.
Post oaks are a smaller tree, growing only 15 meters maximum. However, they do have a thick trunk, so look for a small tree with a huge crown and a thick trunk.
The bark of the post oak is light gray.
The leaves of this tree are slightly lobed, but not much, and form a cross-shape.
Bur oaks are one of the tallest, usually growing 30 meters but sometimes reaching 50! They are huge in their density too, being as large as 3 meters in diameter as well. They grow slowly and are often found in the United States and Canada.
Bur oaks usually have a medium-gray bark, typically with narrow scales and ridges that go vertical up the trunk.
The leaves of this tree will usually be odd shaped, often having lobes half the length of the leaf.
Sand Post Oak
This is probably the smallest oak, growing up to 12 meters maximum. It is much like a shrub, and you will often find it in sandy soil in the south-eastern United States.
Sand post oaks have a gray colored bark that has shallow fissures and ridges that are slightly scaly.
Its leaves are very rounded with a rounded tip.
You will find these on the Northwestern coast of the U.S. growing up to 30 meters high.
These trees can grow as shrubs as well where they will usually grow to 5 meters high.
These trees have a bark that is gray and furrowed with prominent ridges.
Their leaves are glossy green and have rounded tips, with a U shaped sinuses.
This tree can grow up to 40 meters tall in Europe where it is mainly found. It is also the most popular oak in Ireland. Its leaves will go from an olive green to a golden yellow in fall.
This tree has smooth gray bark when it is young, but it will furrow as it ages.
The leaves of this tree are sinuated with small lobes and teeth.
Chestnut oaks are medium in size growing up to 22 meters tall, and with most of its foliage gathering at the top of the tree.
It has a unique bark with very deep fissures and pronounced ridges.
The leaves on these oak grow tightly together with bristled edges and no lobes. They do have very pronounced V-shaped veins.
Holm oaks are evergreens that grow up to 28 meters tall. It can also be called a holly oak.
This tree has a gray-black bark with very delicate fissures that appear more like a series of cracks.
Its leaves are glossy and oblong with no lobes.
Chinkapins grow up to 33 meters tall, with branches that emerge very close to the ground. It is similar to the chestnut oak, however it has pointed teeth instead of rounded ones.
The bark of this tree is flaky and gray with delicate fissures.
The leaves of this tree are similar to chestnut leaves, but they are sharper and have no bristles.
While we have listed a great deal of oak trees on our list today, there are so many we haven’t covered. There are countless species of oak tree in our world, more than we can possibly list for you.
However, we hope this list has better helped you identify these oaks, and that you will now be able to tell which tree is a red oak, and which is a white oak.
Remember to always refer to the bark of a tree and its leaves. If you are still stumped look up the oaks local to the area you are in, and it may help you narrow down which type of oak tree it is.
If you are unable to tell if an oak is a red oak or white oak, look at their acorns, we could suggest you take a bite, but we do not recommend it, if it is a red oak then it won’t taste very nice!