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Shumard Oak

Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii) is mostly a southern species, encompassing territory in the deep South from North Carolina to Texas, and northward to the lower Midwest. In Ohio, it occurs sporadically in the western half of the state, often in mesic situations in ravines, upper floodplains, and along streams. Its growth habit is modestly pyramidal to upright oval in youth, only spreading at the top of its canopy with maturity.

Its growth rate under optimum conditions involving adequate moisture and deep soils is rapid, while its drought tolerance is underrated. It may reach 60 feet tall by 40 feet wide at maturity when found in the open in Ohio, but it is much larger in more southern climates. As a member of the Red Oak group and the Beech Family, it is related to the Beeches, Chestnuts, and other Oaks.

Planting Requirements

Shumard Oak prefers constantly moist but well-drained, deep, rich soils that are of variable pH. In extremely alkaline soils, it may exhibit a small degree of chlorosis, but often the leaves are simply a lighter shade of green. It also tolerates very dry soils. It thrives in full sun to partial sun but is shade tolerant in youth and is found in zones 5 to 9.

Potential Problems

Other than cosmetic blemishes on its foliage due to minor insect feeding, Shumard Oak is basically problem-free, although it may on occasion be subject to the standard army of pests and pathogens that afflict the Oaks.

Identifying Features

Leaves of Shumard Oak are alternate, broadly obovate, with seven to nine lobes that have bristles terminating each tooth on the outward-reaching lobes. Sinuses vary greatly from tree to tree in their depth, with some shallow, others two-thirds of the way to the midrib.

Fall color ranges from russet to orange-red in good years, although many trees have subdued fall color with hues of red and yellow on otherwise brown leaves in autumn.

Shumard Oak, a monoecious species like all other Oaks, has pendulous pollen-bearing male catkins in mid-spring that fertilize the miniature female flowers on the same tree or on nearby trees.

As a member of the Red Oak group, it takes two years for the recently fertilized female flowers to develop into mature acorns. As such, they usually go unnoticed during their first year of development and are not obvious until the second year, when they fill out and ripen in late summer and early autumn.

Twigs of all Oaks terminate in a cluster of buds, and those of Shumard Oak are of average size as compared to other Oaks, being light-colored on olive-green twigs.

The immature bark of Shumard Oak is light gray, very reflective in the winter sun (especially on upper branches and trunks), and very smooth. As the bark matures, it becomes more ridged and furrowed, with a dark gray color.

Most Oaks are upright in their juvenile phase, and become more spreading with age. Shumard Oaks, in general, remain upright in their general growth thrust from youth through maturity, although they do widen somewhat with great age, especially in the upper one-third of the canopy. Shumard Oak is therefore valuable as a tall landscape Oak that will not crowd out nearby trees or buildings with age, as compared to other Oaks.