Willow Oak any better than Water Oak?

alabamatreehugger(8)February 17, 2011

Okay, in my area both Water Oak and Laurel Oak are very common, and both are well known for rotting and breaking apart. I'd never intentionally plant either one, and I've been clearing some Water Oaks out of my wooded area to make room for better trees. I don't have much experience with Willow Oak, but it looks so much like the other two that I'm just curious if it suffers from the same problems?

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Willow oak is widely touted as a tough urban tree. It's used in the mid atlantic and southeast as a street tree.
Your post is sort of a trick question in that, "Is it any better than Water oak?", as an ornamental, I believe the answer is yes. "Does it suffer from the same problems?" That depends. It's probably prone to some of the same pathogens. In a wooded area where large trees are growing 10 feet from one another, they will drop limbs that get shaded out or broken or dead wood will decay. Water oaks can live a very long time but you will most likely find willow oak to be more desirable if given enough space to develop and full sun.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 9:40AM
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It makes an excellent yard tree. Both the leaves and acorns are small and cause few problems. The bark is hard and somewhat smooth. The tree has good structure and relatively strong wood.
I have know them to have problems with rotting when growing in semi-swamp oak flats with very poor drainage or routine flooding. In most normal yard areas this should not be the case.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 2:07PM
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Quercus phellos suffers from many of the same drawbacks as Q. nigra, besides being overplanted in many areas of its native range. You're probably better off with member of the white oak group. Or perhaps Q. falcata, anyway.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 8:16PM
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I never heard that about Willow oak, but have about Q Nigra and Q Hemispherica also. There are some impressive large old Q Phellos I,ve seen in pictures. Maybe those trees are rare though. If that's the case I'm glad my 2 are far from the house.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 10:44PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I don't think that Willow Oak looks anything like the laurel-or water-oaks you've mentioned. Certainly not in form and infrastructure, where the Willow Oak has a beautiful natural structure. The foliage is so very different, as well...not only in leaf shape but also in the fact that the willow oak is deciduous.

At one time, Willow Oaks were the primary overstory trees in the beautiful waterfront park in Beaufort, SC. I always thought that they looked prettier in the winter when we could see their skeletons. Very striking.

They are also fairly fast growing (for an oak), but are not brittle wooded as so many fast growing trees can be.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 2:31PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I get water and laurel oak confused, too, Alabama, but willow oak is different. A lot of them grow in the neighborhood where my daughter used to live in Memphis, planted all along the streets there. They have very small leaves, much smaller than laurel or water oak leaves, and they have a real thick, tough looking trunk.
They don't grow naturally down here, and I've never planted one, so I can't give you any advice.
Remember that bur oak acorn from the Montgomery area that you sent me a couple of years ago? It grew to about 5 1/2' tall last year, so this year it should outgrow the cage I put around it (chicken wire type material attached to 1"X1" poles) to keep the deer from browsing on it. It makes HUGE leaves, it's very tough looking, and I'm enjoying watching it grow.
Thanks again for the acorn!
Sherry in Wiggins, MS

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 4:55PM
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Hey misssherry! I haven't seen you post on here in awhile, glad to see you back :) My Bur Oak is about 4ft, so I think it may take off this year too. I can't wait till I can watch the squirrels munch on those big acorns.

Yeah, we have plenty of younger Willow Oaks around that have been planted, but I've never really seen an old one. I have several HUGE Water Oaks that are rotten to the core and I'm waiting for them to collapse any day now (they're way back at the back of my property). The bark of the Willow Oak looks identical to Water Oak to me, so I guess that's why was curious about the longterm durability of the tree.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 11:45PM
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jqpublic(7b/8a Wake County NC)

Willow oaks are a very common street tree around here. They get quite huge. The only time I ever saw a problem was during a huge ice storm we had. Basically, all the trees around here had issues though during the ice storm of 2002.

They are so common here I forget how uncommon they are in other areas of the country. These become huge trees so giving them an adequate amount of space is key.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 1:15PM
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Cheryl 5:

It sounds like you are looking for a replacement tree in your wooded area, is that correct? If so, it is not going to matter much when choosing between Water, Laurel, or Willow oaks. All have a similar life span. Willow oaks have some morphological differences, but the wood is generally similar in its performance to Water oaks. If you are planting as a street tree, improved Willow oaks have a few advantages over Water oaks and Laurel oaks, but not many. They all have an urban life expectancy of 60-80 years.

Why not plant a variety? Planting an assortment of oak varieties is a hedge against unpredictable environmental events.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 11:10PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Did you ever plant any swamp chestnut oaks, Alabama?
I just love mine, and they grow faster than regular white oaks. I agree, though, that planting a variety is a good idea.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 2:45PM
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