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Incoming BYTES
contains highly variable subject matter including commentary on the mundane, the extraordinary and even controversial issues. At Incoming BYTES
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let's look at Oaks!

Our favourite gardening girl, one Glory Lennon not only has some interesting maple trees, but she has some oak trees too--not big enough to hide Robin Hood and his merry men in, but  Pin oaks.   Interestingly, Glory's oak tree leaves don't seem to want to fall off in the Poconos, --get that?
At Incoming Bytes  we love oak trees like mad, even if the leaves on our oak trees fall off for half of the year.  We have 'Black Oak' OR Swamp White Oak  or Scub Oak  or , um..... 'Quercus something-or-other' oak. 
Well, okay we don't  know exactly  what species they are, so we're happily not pretending to know.

The point is, the leaves turned brown and fell off. These beautiful oaks get acorns like other oaks, the squirrels even steal them and save them to eat.  I've even been known to eat a few. No doubt, they're Quercus-something-or-other.    Maybe they're just neatly hybridized for our NW Ontario climate, but I've seen them along the river-banks  in Southern Manitoba too.

This is what the leaves look like, at this time of year, you'll just  have to imagine they're green and they  do look a lot like swamp White oak.  These are kind of brown and faded too, but still a handsome leaf, don't you think?  The back of the leaf is an even  lighter tan.
 Oak leaf (faded)
If you think the end of the leaf was broken off, look again, here are two more exactly the same, they are flat on the end, unlike some other oaks:
A twin pair of Oak leaves

Is that flat end a detail of hybridization and adaptation to the severe cold here?  No matter what they are, rightly or wrongly,  the local name for these is scrub oak, or  Black Oak.  When wet, the trees are almost black as Ebony.  Ebony the pup, that is.

Gnarly  Oak Twigs

  But how about that gnarly bark and twigs?  The bark is quite unusual. Here's another photo of it.

Amazing  Oak bark
The two oaks we have are about 15 years old and were very slow to start and are slow-growing. With an extremely deep tap root, once they establish themselves, they're difficult  to move without chopping off the tap root. They can get quite big when very old. They don't seem to be good candidates for indigenous-species bonsai either because of the tap root and slow growth pattern. We'll get to bonsai later though.

Here's what a twinned  15 year old  Oak looks like.  It is quite elegant bare, but stunning in full leaf.  The pup, Ebony, is jet black, making the oak bark look lighter gray  even though it is quite dark-coloured.  The puppy,  --except for the white spots,  is so black it's even difficult to take a picture of her in full sunlight, but it's dull and overcast in this picture. She's a real poser too. Notice her two ears are stuck up like the twin trunks?

Here's what the trunk looks like close up:

As you can see, several types of mosses love the thick, rough bark. Even though this bark looks quite beaten up and stressed by life, the tree is absolutely healthy and normal.  Tough stuff !

 If anyone really knows for sure what species this oak is, please tell us.
Why?.......um.....We may be moderately Acer-savvy,  but  we're also definitely  'Quercus-challenged'. 

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.



  1. I would have guessed a black oak, but since my property is utterly devoid of oaks I am also Quercus-challenged!
    Your dog looks like a bear at first glance!


  2. One question: What zone (USDA if you know) are you in? I'm thinking 3-4 which would not allow a
    Water or black Oak, Quercus nigra, hardy only to 6-9, to grow where you are. Another mystery! I love it!

  3. Julie, it makes sense, locally they do call them Black Oak, and they really are quite black --but who really knows? Apparently Swamp white oak hybridizes too, so it's always possible the Black does too?

    @ Glory, we're in Zone 3- or 3b at the best, but these same oaks grow in Southern Manitoba along riverbanks--and a lot of that area is only Zone 2 I believe. It is a curiosity--for the better part, this species of oak grows predominantly along the river banks here too,--on south facing slopes usually, so perhaps those locations are enough of a micro-climate factor to allow Quercus nigra to survive? Btw, I thank you for the great idea for this post!!

  4. Very interesting. Good pictures too.

  5. I recognized the pin oak, but none of the others. Some of your photos gives new meaning to the word "gnarly." Also, I can see a face in the tree trunk with moss towards the end! Can you find it? :-)

  6. Quite an eye-opener for me. Theory in the outdoor lab. :)


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