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Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor)

This oak grows to about 50 feet in most urban conditions. Growth rate is fairly fast (1 to 2 feet per year) The branching habit resembles that of pin oak (a.k.a. "swamp red oak"), but the branches are shorter and more stout, and more dense. The leaves are dark green above and very pale green, almost white below.

The tree has performed better than expected in Ohio State University tests. The tree tolerates wet and drought conditions. It also does well on moist well-drained soil. Swamp White Oak is sensitive to iron chlorosis and should not be planted in alkaline soils, or soils with pH above 5.9, unless the seed source is from a known area with higher pH. Conversely, however, it is a good choice for acid damaged soils.

Fall color is yellow, with an occasional red-purple. The bark of mature trees is quite attractive and unique. Acorns are typically about 3/4 - 1", often born doubly on a 1" peduncle, and not heavy. This plant will tolerate significant soil compaction, and sites with notably poor drainage, and low soil oxygen. The swamp white oak will tolerate light shade and can be planted near a building. In the right site, this tree will make a valuable and attractive addition to the diversity of our urban forests.

The natural habitat for this tree are areas that are quite wet during spring (even with standing water), that dry out over the summer. Trees transplanted from a mesic nursery condition to a wet, poorly-drained area should be planted on a mounded area to allow the plant time to adapt to wetter conditions. In wet areas this plant will develop a dual-layered root system, using the upper layer during wet conditions (typically in the spring) and switching to the lower roots during dried periods (such as later in the summer). This tree may not survive in areas prone to severe late-season flooding.

Swamp White Oak on The Ohio State Univ. Campus
A Happy Swamp White Oak, Columbus, Ohio.
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T. Davis Sydnor, Ph. D. and Nick E. D'Amato
Urban Forestry Department
School of Natural Resources
The Ohio State University
2021 Coffey Road,
Columbus OH 43210
(614) 292-3865