Willow Oak: Leaves, Bark, Acorns (Pictures): Identification and Growing Guide

The long, willow-like leathery leaves that grow on the willow oak tree give it its name. It is a kind of natural red oak. The rapid development, rich foliage, barrel-shaped acorns, and golden yellow or copper-brown autumn coloration of the magnificent medium-sized deciduous willow oak have made it a favorite.

Willow oak trees are hardy, drought-tolerant, and persistent once they are well-established in the environment.

This article will help you determine whether a willow oak tree is in your environment. You’ll see images of willow oak tree leaves, acorns, bark, and flowers in addition to descriptions of this red oak species. Ultimately, at the conclusion of the article, there is advice on willow oak tree growing.

Willow Oak Tree Facts

Quercus phellos willow oak trees The willow oak tree (Quercus phellos) belongs to the genus Quercus and the family Fagaceae, and it is a native tree of North America. The dark brownish-gray trunk of the willow oak may be up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) in diameter and grows between 65 and 100 feet (20 to 30 meters) tall.

The willow oak, like all oaks, has particular qualities that set it apart. The leaves, on the other hand, are used to differentiate between willow and other oak trees. The willow oak has lance-shaped leaves that resemble those of a willow tree, contrary to the conventional lobed leaves of ordinary oak trees.

The oval, rounded form with upward spreading branches, a straight trunk, and finely-textured lanceolate leaves distinguish the willow oak as it grows. A willow oak tree may survive for a century or more. USDA zones 5 through 9 are ideal for willow oaks. The hardy willow oak trees thrive in both full and partial sunlight. The hardwood trees are quite adaptable.

Most soil types, including clay soils that are well-drained and moist all of the time, support willow trees. Willow oak trees grow at a moderate to rapid pace in ideal circumstances. The majestic willow oak tree will grow between 12 inches and 24 inches (30 – 60 cm) per year, depending on how much sun it gets and how well-drained its soil is.

The fibrous root system of willow oak trees is rather shallow. Since willow oaks have a relatively shallow root system, they are easier to move. The willow oak’s natural resistance to various root illnesses, such as root rot, is due to its fast growth habit. The willow oak’s natural range extends from Florida to Long Island and then west to Missouri and Texas, running along the east coast. The willow oak is a superb shade tree in open settings due to its majestic size, spreading crown, and lush foliage.

Willow Oak Tree Leaves

Willow oak leaves are distinctive, with the lobbing of common oak leaves missing. The long, slender, lance-shaped willow oak leaves taper at both ends and are long and slender. The blades have a lustrous green color and a smooth feel. Before dropping in the autumn, they mature to russet or yellow.

Willow oak leaves are 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 cm) long and 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3 cm) broad in the fall. On branches, the willow-like leaves alternate. A bristled tip, smooth edge, and a pale underside with visible veins are among the other features.

Willow Oak Tree Bark

On immature trees, the bark of a mature willow oak tree is smooth and reddish-brown. Scaly plates with shallow furrows develop as the oak tree ages, giving it a rough appearance. Moreover, the bark of mature willow oaks is cracked and has deeply furrowed grooves.

With numerous reddish-brown terminal buds, willow oak twigs develop olive-brown color. The twigs become light gray to gray as they grow and develop larger branches, and the smooth texture is preserved. Little twigs produce stiff, leathery leaves.

Willow Oak Tree Flowers (Catkins)

Male and female flowers bloom on the same tree, making the willow oak monoecious. Male willow oak catkins (flowering spikes) are 2″ to 3″ (5 – 7.5 cm) long and pendulous yellow catkins. Little spikes of willow oak female blooms grow in pairs or threes. While willow oak is a blossoming tree, it is not renowned for its beauty. Mid-spring is when the oak tree blossoms. And the tiny, stocky acorns develop from pollinated female blossoms.

Willow Oak Tree Acorns (Fruit)

Willow acorns are tiny and dark brown in color, and they are eaten. The little brown nuts, which are barrel-shaped and measure 0.31 to 0.5 inches (8 to 12 mm) long and broad, are about the size of raisins. The shallow, warty cups covering one-third of the nut and pale vertical lines on the thick leathery shell differentiate willow oak acorns from other nuts.

The willow oak acorns take two years to mature, as do most red oak species. The small oval brown acorns have a somewhat bitter flavor, despite being edible. Wildlife, on the other hand, adore them.

Willow Oak Tree (Quercus phellos) Identification

The leaves, bark, height, and acorns of a willow oak tree are all factors that identify it. The stately willow oak has smooth, leathery willow-like leaves with tapered ends that turn brownish-yellow in the fall. It has a rounded to the pyramidal crown. Grayish, fissured bark and little dark brown ovoid acorns characterize the medium-sized tree.

Where to Plant Willow Oak Tree

Willow oak should be planted in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. The tree thrives with six hours of daily sunlight, however, it can withstand partial shade. The site should also accommodate the 40-foot-wide (12-meter) pyramidal canopy. Most soil types, including acidic, loamy, sandy, wet, clay, and moist soils, support the growth of willow oak. Ideally, soil with a pH of six or less is desired, as well as being somewhat acidic.

You may plant the crimson oak as a shade tree in residential parks, along roadsides, and in huge gardens because it is tolerant of urban circumstances. You should plant the tree at least 25 feet (7.6 meters) away from buildings or structures because of the willow oak tree’s spreading canopy and shallow, fibrous root system.

How to Plant Willow Oak Tree

Willow oak trees should be planted in the autumn. Willow oak acorns may be planted right into the earth and will sprout the following spring. You can also plant the young tree in the autumn or spring if you have a nursery tree. Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and just as deep to plant a willow oak in the sunniest location in your garden.

After that, carefully untangle and uncurl the roots while removing the burlap from the root ball. Lastly, place the tree in the hole so that it is growing at the same height as before.

Next, use compost-amended native soil to backfill the hole. To eliminate air pockets as you fill the hole, press down as you go. thoroughly water the root area to saturate the ground after the hole has been filled. Lastly, over the root region, place a 2″ to 3″ (5 – 7.5 cm) layer of organic mulch. It is important to water a willow oak tree frequently after planting it in the ground to help the roots establish themselves.

Throughout the first season, you should provide 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water to the newly-planted oak tree every week. Drought tolerance is improved by the presence of an established willow oak.

It’s important to remember willow oak’s high water and nutrient requirements when planting it. As a result, regular watering will ensure that the tree does not suck moisture from nearby plants. The willow oak, in addition, absorbs nutrients from the earth quickly due to its fast development.

How to Grow a Willow Oak Tree From Acorn (Willow Oak Tree Propagation)

It’s simple and interesting to grow a willow oak from an acorn. You’ll have a tiny ornamental tree in your garden or container fast thanks to the quick germination of mature acorns and the tree’s rapid development. Stratifying the acorns or planting them straight in the ground are both options for growing an oak from seed.

In September and October, gather ripe acorns. Shake the nuts loose from the tree to obtain the finest ones. The tree produces ripe acorns that fall easily. Remove the caps, put the acorns in a bucket of water for 24 hours, and discard those that float to the top.

Before planting in the soil, it’s preferable to stratify the acorns for 30 to 60 days. Fill a sealable plastic bag with moist peat moss halfway. Place the acorns in a sealed bag and store it in the fridge for up to two months. Acorn germination is sped up by stratifying them.

Fill a 1-foot-tall (30 cm) pot with a well-draining potting soil to grow a willow oak seedling. On the sides of three 1″ (2.5 cm) acorns, press down the soil. Let the excess run out of the drainage openings until it drains. Throughout the germination process, keep the soil moist.

The weaker seedlings should be removed once the acorns have germinated. In April, you may relocate the pot to a sunny location and continue to develop it there. When the seedling is 6 inches (15 cm) tall and has a few unfurled leaves, you may transfer it to the ground.

Willow Oak Tree in the Landscape

In an open environment, the ornamental willow oak is stunning. On a large lawn or extensive garden, it makes an excellent shade tree. In wet situations where other oak trees struggle, it will also thrived. Its spreading canopy, on the other hand, requires a lot of space.

Willow Oak Tree Care Guide

The care of a willow oak is simple. The deciduous tree can flourish in a variety of soil types and withstand heat, drought, and urban settings. When growing in full sun and well-drained soil, the tree only requires minimal care.

How to Water Willow Oak Tree

Willow oak trees that have just been planted need to be watered twice weekly, or sooner if the soil feels dry. This prevents the oak tree from absorbing too much moisture from nearby plants and helps it build deep roots. Water your willow oak tree with a drip irrigation system or hose.

Only during periods of drought or when rainfall falls below one inch per week do mature willow oaks need watering. In hot, dry summers, you may need to water the willow oak once a week or twice a week. You may delay watering all through the winter while the oak is sleeping.

Willow Oak Tree Fertilization

A bi-annual application of a balanced fertilizer for trees boosts the health of willow oak trees. Late in the winter and midsummer, you can apply a slow-release fertilizer with an NPK rating of 10-10-10. This will help the tree grow strong, disease-resistant leaves by strengthening its health.

Fertilizing a willow oak tree after August and through the winter is critical. Fertilization in the autumn and winter may help new growth flourish, but it will die off in the harsh winters. It’s also critical to apply the correct quantity of fertilizer to the size of the tree, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Otherwise, due to root burn, you may get scorched leaves.

How to Prune Willow Oak Tree

When young willow oak trees have upright-growing branches that need pruning, they require it. The purpose is to eliminate any competing stems and discover the core leader. Willow oaks heal longer from cosmetic pruning than other oak trees do. As a result, when the tree is relatively young, it is critical to perform all structural pruning.

Pruning is all that is required to separate dead or sick branches from an established willow oak. Also remove branches that are crossing or rubbing against other limbs. The crown of the tree can be thinned out as well. Nonetheless, if you want to prune a mature willow oak tree, call the experts.

Pests Affecting Willow Oak Tree Growth

Hardy deciduous trees that are resistant to pests, willow oak trees are ideal. Aphids, scale insects, caterpillars, and boring insects may all have an adverse impact on willow oak’s health in certain situations.

Willow oak foliage damage by caterpillars: Willow oak leaves can be attacked by a variety of caterpillars. Fall webworms, tussock moth larvae, and tent caterpillars, for example, can chew on leaves and create significant leaf damage. Willow oaks are particularly vulnerable to gypsy moth caterpillars. The majority of oak tree caterpillar damage is merely cosmetic.

Aphid damage to willow oaks: Aphids are tiny bugs that cause twisted leaf development by feeding on foliage. Honeydew, a sticky, amber-colored goop, is abundant on the lower leaves. On outdoor plants, learn how to kill aphids.

Scale insect damage Little reddish-brown ball-like formations develop on twigs and branches near leaf stalks, and they resemble willow oak trees. Scale insect damage to trees can result in die-back and inhibit fresh leaf development.

Spider mites Willow oak tree foliage may be likewise affected. Mite damage on oak leaves produces a dusty coating on the leaves, and eventually the leaves may turn yellow if the infestation gets severe. Spider mites can be killed off plants by learning how to do it.

Diseases Affecting Willow Oak Tree Growth

Willow oak trees are typically disease-resistant trees that thrive in ideal conditions. Anthracnose, canker diseases, oakleaf blister, powdery mildew, and bacterial leaf scorch are some of the tree diseases that affect willow oaks.

Willow oakleaf blister round, brown raised patches on the top leaf surfaces are symptoms of a fungal ailment. On lower leaf surfaces, the leathery oak leaves may have the same irregular shape and size. It won’t damage the tree, even if it’s a concern in wet seasons.

Anthracnose In wet, cool weather, this may be a significant issue, causing dead patches on infected leaves. Premature leaf drop is prevalent in many situations. The condition may cause a tree to die eventually in stressed trees as well. A willow oak tree, on the other hand, is unlikely to suffer long-term damage from a fungal infection.

Powdery mildew Because of humidity, poor air circulation, and chilly weather, willow oak trees are affected. Powdery mildew symptoms include leaves with a powdery white substance that looks like black pepper sprinkled on them. This ailment is most prevalent in the autumn and is cosmetic in nature, having no negative impact on the tree’s health.

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