Monday, December 26, 2011

What's Wrong With My Oak?

Back in 2002, when my husband and I bought our home, one of the things we liked best about the property was our parkway tree. We didn't know what kind of tree is was, but loved it's perfect symmetry, rounded form (although I would have used the word "shape" back then), and fullness when leafed out that gave us privacy on our somewhat busy street. But one thing that drove us crazy was the fact that it would not lose it's leaves in the fall like the rest of the trees! We had no idea why. We thought maybe it was because there was a streetlight nearby, which we'd read could mess with the leaf cycle of trees.

I've since learned that this tree that we adore, is Quercus alba, a white oak. Q. alba is native to Illinois, in fact, it's Illinois' state tree. It's a member of the Fagaceae family, which includes oaks, beeches, and chestnuts. Nothing is wrong with our tree - members of the Fagaceae family hang on to their leaves well into winter. In fact, you'll often see a pile of leaves under the tree in the snow, as they continually lose a few each day. In early spring, old leaves will fall as the new ones emerge.

While my white oak has not produced any acorns yet (mine is only about 15 years old and they are said typically not to produce acorns until 50 years, but sometimes as little as 20) when it does, they will be an important source of food for wildlife as more than 180 species of insects, birds, and mammals feed from this tree.

I'm lucky enough to have "inherited" this tree and a 70 foot tall white pine when we bought our house. I've added other native trees including a redbud (Cercis canadensis), serviceberry (Amalanchier sp.) and hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana). What are your favorite native trees on your property (inherited or not)?

1 comment:

  1. Oh goodness! I thought you were going to write about Sudden Oak Death, which is a huge problem in California.