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Post Oak Quercus stellata


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Post Oak, leaf
credit: K. Bischof, North Carolina State Parks

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Family: Fagaceae, Beech view all from this family

Description Quercus stellata, a member of the white oak group, is a small tree, typically 10–15 m tall and 30–60 cm trunk diameter, though occasional specimens reach 30 m tall and 140 cm diameter. It is native to the eastern United States, from Connecticut in the northeast, west to southern Iowa, southwest to central Texas, and southeast to northern Florida. It is one of the most common oaks in the southern part of the eastern prairies, such as in the Cross Timbers.

The leaves have a very distinctive shape, with three perpendicular terminal lobes, shaped much like a Maltese Cross. They are leathery, and tomentose (densely short-hairy) beneath. The branching pattern of this tree often gives it a rugged appearance. The acorns are 1.5–2 cm long, and are mature in their first summer.

The name refers to the use of the wood of this tree for fence posts. Its wood, like that of the other white oaks, is hard, tough and rot-resistant. This tree tends to be smaller than most other members of the group, with lower, more diffuse branching, largely reflecting its tendency to grow in the open on poor sites, so its wood is of relatively low value as sawn lumber. It is also a popular wood for smoking Texas barbecue.

Habitat Grasslands & prairies, Scrub, shrub & brushlands, Watersides (fresh).

Range Plains, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, Texas, Southeast, Florida.

Comments This plant is common in the central and southern forest regions, where it is a medium-sized tree. This is the ultimate drought resistant tree, but also grows in soggy, flatwoods soils. In dry portions of the western part of its range it is smaller. Its roots are extremely sensitive to disturbance. Susceptible to oak wilt. Not often used in landscape situations. Slow-growing and long-lived.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Native Distribution Massachusetts to c. Florida, w. to e. Kansas & c. Texas

Site Preference Dry, upland ridges & prairie edges

Soil Preference Dry to moist, rocky or sandy soils.

Wildlife Value Attracts songbirds, ground birds and mammals.