Pin Oak

Pin Oak – (Quercus palustris) in the Red Oak family
Pin Oaks grow wild in the eastern and central United States and are common there and elsewhere gracing city parks and shading city and suburban streets. They have a handsome pyramidal shape with dense branches that droop somewhat. Those drooping lower branches can be removed to allow passage under the tree. Members of Red Oak side of the family, Pin Oak foliage is notable for its fall color and failure to drop its leaves until late winter.

Pin Oaks grow from 50 to 75 feet at maturity, which may be between 125 to 175 years. Older trees typically are high crowned, having shed some of their lower branches over the years. They have a smaller canopy than some of their more massive Oak relatives. Their width is usually about 2/3 of their height. They are, however, one of the fastest growing Oaks reaching 30 feet in a period of 12 years, and then slowing a bit. That is one of the reasons this tree has probably been overplanted as street trees in many communities. Pin Oaks definitely do not like to be planted in alkaline soil.

Pin Oak foliage is deciduous, though it seems reluctant to fall at the end of the season and persists on the trees well into February. The somewhat coarse leaves are 3 to 5 inches long and 2 to 5 inches wide. They usually have 5 deep lobes that are toothed and pointed. Pin Oak foliage turns deep red in the fall.

Pin Oaks produce drooping male flowers called catkins. They appear in May just after the leaves emerge and are yellow green, 2 to 3 inches long. By September or early October these give way to ½-inch long acorns that are somewhat short, flattened acorn that is red-brown in color. They take 2 years to ripen. The nut within the acorns is coveted by water birds, songbirds, and ground birds, as well as small mammals like squirrels and chipmunks and even deer.

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