Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Water Oak, QUERCUS NIGRA

from the November 1, 2009 Newsletter, from near Natchez, Mississippi
WATER OAKS

We're in an oak-pine forest type here. My impression is that overall the most common oak species is the Water Oak, QUERCUS NIGRA, an acorn-bearing branch seen above.

Water Oaks are native throughout the US Southeast, mainly on the Coastal Plain, but not reaching as far north as Kentucky. You can see its distribution map at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Water_Oak_Range.gif.

Water Oaks are most common in bottomland situations, but they also turn up in well-drained sites and, in the Deep South, in people's lawns. Around here they are very common even on ridge crests, maybe because our entire area is mantled with a thick deposit of loess, or Ice-Age, wind-deposited dust, and loessal soil may hold water better than soil developed without it.

In my picture, notice the leaves' unusual shape. They are "club-shaped," widest near their outer ends. Students with tree field guides often misidentify Water Oaks as Blackjack Oaks because Blackjack Oaks have a similar shape and are more widely distributed and better known. However, Blackjack Oak leaves are larger, more leathery and tend to grow on poor, thin, dry, rocky or sandy soils.