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Shingle Oak

Shingle Oak (Quercus imbricaria) is primarily an Oak of the Midwestern United States, where early pioneers used its narrowly split wood to produce shingles for their cabins. In Ohio, it occurs throughout the state and is found in a variety of environments -- from dry to mesic, in forests and fields alike. Its canopy is often broad-spreading at maturity, and it is the only Oak native to Ohio that has simple, non-lobed leaves with entire margins.

It may reach 60 feet tall by 70 feet wide at maturity, when found in the open. It is a member of the Red Oak group (having a single bristle tip at each leaf apex, and small acorns that take two years to mature) and the Beech Family, and is related to the Beeches, Chestnuts, and other Oaks.

Planting Requirements

Shingle Oak prefers moist, well-drained, acidic soils, but adapts well to relatively poor, dry soils of neutral or slightly alkaline pH. It thrives in full sun to partial sun (but is shade tolerant in youth) and is found in zones 4 to 8.

Potential Problems

Shingle Oak will get a slight amount of leaf chlorosis in very high pH soils, as are often encountered in urban environments. Otherwise, it will be subject to the usual array of pests and pathogens that can affect many Oaks.

Identifying Features

Shingle Oak is the only common Oak of the midwestern United States to have a leaf with smooth, unlobed margins (Willow Oak is typically a more southern species).

The alternate leaves are elliptical to oblong, and are terminated by a single bristle tip (which is present in early spring but may be worn away by summer), identifying it as a member of the Red Oak group. Fall color usually goes from green to chartreuse to brown, and many leaves may persist in the interior canopy throughout the winter.

Shingle Oak is monoecious, having catkins in mid-spring that are the golden male flowers observed just before the foliage fully enlarges. By being a member of the Red Oak group, the miniature female flowers on the same tree that are fertilized take two years to mature. However, they are not obvious until the second year, when they slowly fill out during the summer and ripen in early to mid-autumn.

Twigs of all Oaks terminate in a cluster of buds, and those of Shingle Oak are typical in this respect. As its relatively thin bark matures, it becomes moderately ridged and shallowly furrowed, with the dark gray to gray-brown color that is characteristic of members of the Red Oak group.

The growth habit of Shingle Oak becomes wide-spreading at maturity and is often quite dense in twigs and branches.

Members of the Red Oaks are so named not for their fall foliage colors, but for their wood that, when freshly cut or split, has distinct red to red-orange coloration, as shown in this wind-felled Shingle Oak. Members of the White Oak group, on the other hand, have wood that is creamy-white to beige upon being sawed or split.