Common Name:White Oak
Botanical Name:Quercus alba
Bloom Description:The flowers are 3-4”-long golden catkins.
Trail/Garden Location:Art Trail, East Terrace, Entry drive, North Lawn
Garden Uses:White oaks are a perfect choice for a sturdy shade tree or even as a classic specimen tree. We have used this as a choice for our second-generation tree program to ensure that future generations of guests can enjoy the beauty of these lasting legacies.
Wildlife Benefits:The acorns are eaten by squirrel, deer, bear, turkey, and quail. This is the host plant to the banded hairstreak butterfly.
Leaf Type:The leaves are 4-8” long and 2-3” wide. They are 5-9-lobed, rounded on the ends, and dark green, changing to shades of brown and red in the fall.
A PANTRY STAPLE TRANSCRIPT
NARRATOR: The mighty white oak is a giant of the Ozark Forest, and also a vital resource for human cultures in the area. Ethnobotanist Justin Nolan describes the white oak’s many roles as a staple of the pantry, medicine cabinet, and lumberyard.
JUSTIN NOLAN: White oak, Quercus alba. The majestic white oak is a glorious native North American oak, and a beauty to behold in any of its habitats, from the Texas low country to Georgia, north and eastward to the Catskills over to Minnesota, the white oak is a prominent, salient feature of any habitat. Reaching maturity after fully 20 years, and often living well past a hundred and even 200 years or more, the white oak has garnered human admiration and appreciation since the peopling of the continent. Prized for its wood’s unique resilience, white oak was sought out by coopers, carpenters, shipbuilders, and everyday folk for its sturdy, rot-resistant properties. White oak was historically significant in the construction of early American furniture, baskets, bourbon barrels, and farming tools.
In many ways, the white oak is a quintessentially American tree. Its bark is medicinal. It is an astringent, and a wound disinfectant. Thus, it stands to reason that white oak bark appears throughout Native American medical inventories, as well as a powerful remedy against diarrhea and indigestion. Its acorns also provided an important food source historically. These were soaked in lye water to remove that bitter tannin flavor. These were then simmered, sifted, and crushed into a flowery mush. This acorn mush could be stored over winter as a nutrient-rich soup stock for later consumption. Given their long lifespan and their massive size, the white oak is symbolic today of steadfastness, strength, and continuity across the American landscape.