Winter hardy to USDA Zones 5-9 where it is best grown in acidic, moist loams in full sun. Grows well in sandy soils. Tolerates some part shade but not full shade. Tolerates wet soils and occasional flooding.
Large unlobed chestnut-like leaves adorn this bottomland oak which is native to silty floodplains, swampy areas, rich sandy lowland woods and along streams primarily in coastal plain areas from New Jersey to northern Florida west to eastern Texas and up the Mississippi River Valley to southeastern Missouri and the southern parts of Illinois and Indiana. This tree was first described by French naturalist Francois Andre Michaux (1770-1855). Swamp chestnut oak is a medium to large deciduous oak (part of the white oak group) with a tight, narrow, rounded crown. It typically grows to 40-60′ (infrequently to 100′) tall. Obovate leaves (to 11″ long) have large rounded teeth and wavy margins. Leaves are shiny green above but grayish-pubescent beneath. Leaves are similar to those of chestnut oak (Q. montana), except for the hairy undersides. Leaves turn dark red in fall. Ornamentally insignificant flowers bloom in April-May (male in slender yellow catkins to 2-4″ long and female in very short few-flowered reddish spikes). Flowers are followed by acorns (each to 1″ long) which ripen in September-October. From 1/3 to 1/2 of each nut is covered by a cup with hairy, gray to light brown scales. These acorns are sweet-tasting and can be eaten directly from the tree (acorns on most oaks need to be boiled first to remove tannic acid). Acorns are consumed by a number of different mammals and birds, including deer, turkey, squirrels and woodpeckers. Acorns are also consumed by livestock including cows, hence the additional common name of cow oak. Acorns are typically not produced until the tree reaches 20-25 years old. Gray bark has flaky ridges. Swamp chestnut oak was a popular timber tree in the cotton belt of the Deep South during the 1800s, with its durable wood used for a number of different purposes including flooring, posts, wagons and tool handles. In addition, the wood was often split into thin but flexible strips for weaving heavy baskets used to harvest cotton from fields (hence the sometimes used common name of basket oak).
Quercus from Latin means oak.
No serious insect or disease problems. Will love swampy and wet areas, yet will do well on dryer sites as well.
Medium to large oak for low-lying areas.