Know Your Oaks Series – Week 2 Oaks!
During the first week of our Know Your Oaks series, we had explored the Black Oak, the Swamp White Oak and the Chestnut Oak. Week two brings us the Bear Oak, the Dwarf Chinquapin Oak and the Southern Red Oak!
Bear Oaks – Also known as Scrub Oak, Bear Oaks – a member of the red oak family – are small, shrubby formed oaks native to the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. Here in New Jersey, they make their home primarily in the Pine Barrens, an inhospitable site for many deciduous trees. In the barrens, the Bear Oaks form dense thickets, with gnarly branches, and short-lived stems that grow slowly. They only reach a height of 3-30 feet. While their individual life span is only 20-30 years, their root system is much more long-lived. Bear Oaks get their name from the fact that bears enjoy their acorns as food. Ruffled grouse use thick colonies of Bear Oak for cover during feather molts and many species of butterflies use the leaves as larval hosts.
Dwarf Chinquapin Oak – Dwarf Chinquapin Oak is a prolific acorn producer, supporting birds and small mammals as well as butterfly and moth larvae and insects. It begins producing acorns when only 3-4 years old, and unlike other oaks, produces an abundant, steady crop of acorns every year. Interestingly, their acorns are smaller, less bitter and more palatable to wildlife than other varieties. Dwarf Chinquapin Oaks, a member of the white oak family, are native to eastern and central North America, ranging from New Hampshire to the Carolinian forest zone of southern Ontario to eastern Nebraska, south to Georgia. This hardy plant can tolerate poor soils and droughts and can be grown either as a large shrub or pruned into a small tree, thriving in full sun and alkaline soils. Its branches and cavities of declining specimens provide habitats for a variety of mammals, making it one of the best native shrub oaks.
Southern Red Oak – Southern Red Oaks, sometimes called Spanish Oaks, grow from New Jersey to Florida and west to Oklahoma and Texas, reaching 70 to 100 feet high. In the south, you’ll often see them draped with Spanish moss. Southern Red Oaks are naturally found on poor, upland soils and well-drained hillsides. They don’t do well in clay soil but enjoy well-drained acid, sandy or loam sites. Leaves have only three lobes that are not evenly spaced. They’re well suited for planting along roadsides where there is little maintenance after planting.
Looking for more Oaks? Head back to Week 1 of Know Your Oaks, where we had explored the Black Oak, the Swamp White Oak and the Chestnut Oak, or head on back to the main Know Your Oaks page to view each week!
Main Image Credit: International Oak Society – Bear Oak