Herbs & Plants

Black oak

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Botanical Name : Quercus velutina
Family: Fagaceae
Genus: Quercus
Section: Lobatae
Species: Q. velutina
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fagales

Common Names: Black Oak , Eastern black oak

Habitat : It is native to eastern North America from southern Ontario south to northern Florida and southern Maine west to northeastern Texas. It is a common tree in the Indiana Dunes and other sandy dunal ecosystems along the southern shores of Lake Michigan. It grows in the  dry woods. Often found on poor dry sandy, heavy clay soils or on gravelly uplands and ridges.


Quercus velutina is a deciduous tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 25 m (82ft) at a medium rate.
It is frost tender. It is in flower from Apr to May, and the seeds ripen in October. The flowers are monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and are pollinated by Wind.
In the northern part of its range, black oak is a relatively small tree, reaching a height of 20-25 m (65-80 ft) and a diameter of 90 cm (35 in), but it grows larger in the south and center of its range, where heights of up to 42 m (140 ft) are known. Black oak is well known to readily hybridize with other members of the red oak (Quercus sect. Lobatae) group of oaks being one parent in at least a dozen different named hybrids.

You may click to see the pictures of Black oak

The leaves of the black oak are alternately arranged on the twig and are 10-20 cm (4-8 in) long with 5-7 bristle tipped lobes separated by deep U-shaped notches. The upper surface of the leaf is a shiny deep green, the lower is yellowish-brown. There are also stellate hairs on the underside of the leaf that grow in clumps. Sometimes they have brown hairs underneath. Black Oak leaves turn red in the fall…....CLICK  &  SEE

The bark of Black Oak is smooth and gray on young trees, but as it gets older the bark turns black and thick with deep furrows (wrinkles). The inner bark of this tree is orangish-yellow.

Black Oak fruit is an acorn, about 3/4 inch long. Acorns are covered half-way by a cap. Black Oak acorns take about two years to mature and grow.

Black Oak trees are found with other trees, such as American Elm, Black Walnut, hickories, Southern Red Oak, Red Maple, Yellow Poplar, Virginia Pine, Eastern White Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, Loblolly Pine, Black Cherry, Sassafras, Redbud, and Paw Paw. They are found with shrubs like Spicebush, Witch-hazel, and Sumac.

Some vines that grow on Black Oaks are Greenbriar, grape, Poison Ivy, and Virginia Creeper.

Cavities in Black Oaks are home to many animals, especially woodpeckers.

Acorns are eaten by squirrels, mice, voles, White-tailed Deer, and insects. Many birds, such as Bluejays and turkeys, also eat them.

Gypsy Moths defoliate (eat all the leaves of) Black Oaks. After a few seasons, this will kill the tree.

Flowers and fruiting:
Black oak is monoecious. The staminate flowers develop from leaf axils of the previous year and the catkins emerge before or at the same time as the current leaves in April or May. The pistillate flowers are borne in the axils of the current year’s leaves and may be solitary or occur in two- to many-flowered spikes. The fruit, an acorn that occurs singly or in clusters of two to five, is about one-third enclosed in a scaly cup and matures in 2 years. Black oak acorns are brown when mature and ripen from late August to late October, depending on geographic location.

Edible Uses: ..….Coffee…….Seed – cooked. The seed is up to 25mm long and wide. It can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a thickening in stews etc or mixed with cereals for making bread. The seed contains bitter tannins, these can be leached out by thoroughly washing the seed in running water though many minerals will also be lost. Either the whole seed can be used or the seed can be dried and ground it into a powder. It can take several days or even weeks to properly leach whole seeds, one method was to wrap them in a cloth bag and place them in a stream. Leaching the powder is quicker. A simple taste test can tell when the tannin has been leached. The traditional method of preparing the seed was to bury it in boggy ground overwinter. The germinating seed was dug up in the spring when it would have lost most of its astringency. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute.

Cultivation :
Prefers a good deep fertile loam which can be on the stiff side. Young plants tolerate reasonable levels of side shade. Tolerates moderate exposure, surviving well but being somewhat stunted. Prefers warmer summers than are usually experienced in Britain, trees often grow poorly in this country and fail to properly ripen their wood resulting in frost damage overwinter. A fairly fast-growing tree. Rather slow-growing according to another report which also says that trees rarely live longer than 200 years. Trees commence bearing seeds when 15 – 20 years old. Production is cyclic with a year of high yields being followed by 1 – 2 years of low yields. The seed takes 2 summers to ripen. There are several named varieties selected for their ornamental value. Intolerant of root disturbance, trees should be planted in their permanent positions whilst young. Established trees often produce lots of suckers. Hybridizes freely with other members of the genus. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus.

Propagation :
Seed – it quickly loses viability if it is allowed to dry out. It can be stored moist and cool overwinter but is best sown as soon as it is ripe in an outdoor seed bed, though it must be protected from mice, squirrels etc. Small quantities of seed can be sown in deep pots in a cold frame. Plants produce a deep taproot and need to be planted out into their permanent positions as soon as possible, in fact seed sown in situ will produce the best trees. Trees should not be left in a nursery bed for more than 2 growing seasons without being moved or they will transplant very badly.

Medicinal Uses:
The inner bark contains quercitannic acid and is used medicinally, mainly as a mild astringent. It is inferior to the bark of white oaks because it contains large amounts of tannin.  The bark is used in the treatment of chronic dysentery, intermittent fevers, indigestion, asthma and lost voice. An infusion has been used as a gargle for sore throats, hoarseness colds etc. The bark can be chewed as a treatment for mouth sores. An infusion of the bark has been used as a wash for sore and chapped skin. A decoction of the crushed bark has been used as a wash for sore eyes.  Any galls produced on the tree are strongly astringent and can be used in the treatment of hemorrhages, chronic diarrhea, dysentery etc.

Other Uses:
Disinfectant; Dye; Fuel; Repellent; Tannin; Wood.

A mulch of the leaves repels slugs, grubs etc, though fresh leaves should not be used as these can inhibit plant growth. Oak galls are excrescences that are sometimes produced in great numbers on the tree and are caused by the activity of the larvae of different insects. The insects live inside these galls, obtaining their nutrient therein. When the insect pupates and leaves, the gall can be used as a rich source of tannin, that can also be used as a dyestuff. The bark is a source of tannin. A yellow dye is obtained from this tree. The bark is a rich source whilst the seed can also be used. The dye is reddish-yellow according to one report and does not need a mordant. Wood – heavy, hard, strong, coarse grained. It weighs 43lb per cubic foot. Of little value except as a fuel. Commercially important according to another report. The wood is used for rough lumber, cross-ties etc

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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