Help me choose: Oak Trees

greatplainsturf(6/7 OK)August 23, 2011

I have a large yard that I would like to add some more trees to. The trees on the top of my list are Northern Red Oak, Shumard Oak, Burr Oak, Chinkapin Oak (all native to OK) or Nuttal Oak or Pin Oak (not native to OK). My soil is classified as a silt loam, but most would consider it clay. It is one of those soils that doesn't have water standing, but seems to be either wet or dry with nothing in between. Soil is slightly acidic. My criteria are fast healthy growth (1) and good fall color (2). What is your preference and will any of these not work well in my soil.

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I have read in more than one place that chinkapin oak likes calcerous soils. It may be okay if you are near neutral PH. If you really wanted one you should check into that further, I'm just repeating what I read while looking into the chinkapin for my yard. I have all the other oaks on your list. The red oak, burr oak and chinkipin need good drainage and the others can take some boggyness in winter and a little in summer, but not much. But to the best of my knowledge they are all drought tolerant once established in well drained soil. The pin oak may be the first of them to need watered in a drought. My soil can get dry dispite good rain, mulch helps alot.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 1:27AM
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I forgot to mention a tree. Burr oak has no fall color and isn,t the fastest grower, mine isn't anyway. The chinkapin would be good for yellow fall color. The others grow fast and have red fall color. I really love my pin oak's burgundy fall color. The red oak looks good too. I can't see much difference between my Nuttall and shumard yet, they are still small.If I had to narrow down to 3 I would say Pin oak, Nuttall's oak and Northern red oak.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 2:06AM
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arktrees(6b NW Arkansas)

What general area are you located again? Rainfall, and rainfall timing varies so much across OK, that we need more info than just zone data. With that said, making sweeping assumptions that you are in north central OK, then Shumard is probable you best choice for color, and tolerance to local conditions. But they probable need to be Shumard's from regional seed source. You might also be able to use Scarlet Oak, as their native habitat is dry ridge tops, and they would certainly provide the fall color your seeking. Big-Toothed Maple may fit the bill as well.

If you are north near the KS border, there are suggested tree lists available online for each region (i.e. SC Kansas would almost certainly work if you were near Ponca City).


    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 8:26AM
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greatplainsturf(6/7 OK)

I live in Logan county north of the OKC area. Average rainfall is in the 35 inch range, wetter times are may-June and sept-oct. All of the trees listed are being grown iny area. I would like to plant northern red oak because I already have a shumard. My question with it is whether my soil will cause any issue with it or not. I like burr oak, and have seen many. I haven't seen as many chinkapins or nuttall though, so I don't know whAt to expect from these. Some say chinkapin has good color, others dont. I have no idea what to expect from nuttall.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 12:22PM
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All of the oaks you list are good choices for your area, nice selections :)

I lived in OKC (Midwest City to be exact) for 4 years and our "clay" soil there was blood red and had to be soaked for an hour just to dig. I infer from your description you have much better soil up in your location. The tight red stuff around the house could barely grow silver maples, american elm and eastern red cedar.

You might try a quercus coccinea though only if you can locate a smaller specimen in case of failure. They are tolerant of dry locations but not native to you area. They aren't native around here either, but local nursery offerings grow very well . IMO, standouts on your list are Nuttall, Shumard and NRO. Keep in mind Nuttall and Shumard are naturally found either in standing water some of the season (Nuttall in the dormant season I think) or areas that occasionally flood for short periods of time (Shumard). So in your somewhat dry climate, they may need a little extra irrigation especially while establishing the first few years. Bur is also a very good drought tolerant choice but fall color in your location probably won't tickle your fall foliage fancy. I am not very familiar with Chinkapin. I would substitute quercus phellos for yellow fall color for that reason. Q phellos can also turn red but is most often yellow. It is a little more needy with water than some oaks but not much.

Let us know what you decide on!


    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 3:04PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i love oaks...

i hate maple ...

but when you say good color ... well .. i hate to tell you.. there are not many oaks that would hold a candle to maple ...

so put supreme color out of your mind .... band stick with oak!!!!

i agree ... coccinea ... is the best of those i have [red,scarlet,black,white/swamp and shingle and some robur/english] ... but having planted about 12 coccinea .. 10 years back.. 3 of mine are great color .. and 3 more are OK.. and others are dull ...

i will yell.... ITS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU CHOOSE YOUR TREE IN FALL WHEN THE LEAVES HAVE TURNED COLOR ... if that is important ... besides the fact that that is the time to plant them anyway ...

they are all acorn grown... not grafted ... so you are relying on genetics.. and that does not guarantee anything ... [AS INDICATED BY MY RED HEADED BOY.. LOL] ..

find a tree farm .. and go see what you will get.. when the leaves turn color ... i had to drive 300 miles round trip for mine ... but it never crossed my mind to shop when teh trees were in color ...

the 3 good ones of mine go to a deep purple late in the color change.. simply stunning .... and for some reason.. now that i think about it .. they are the runts ... whats that all about ....

good luck


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 3:27PM
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greatplainsturf(6/7 OK)

I really think i'm leaning to the Northern Red Oak. The question i can't get a consistant answer to is how it will fair in tight soil. Every nursery person tells me something different. Is NRO that picky when it comes to soil. Will it not grow fast or well at all in certain soils? I know it doesn't like alkaline, but other than that, are most soils OK for this tree?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 11:09PM
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greatplainsturf(6/7 OK)

Anyone have any experience how Norrhern red oak grows in a clay or tight soil compared to the other trees mentioned above?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 2:20PM
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Dan Staley

We have trouble with NRO here in clay soil with pH around 7.6-7.9. Chlorotic. I'm doing a multi-year street tree replanting project here and using among others Q. shumardii which the city forester thinks is fine, and Q. buckleyi which is an experiment. Both transplanted well and are handling our hot summer so far. Too early to give recommendations tho, although AIUI Q. shumardii was trialed in TX and came out fine, I know of one doing very well in CA in ~same soil as here with Boron toxicity and is doing great...


    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 4:05PM
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