northern pin oak

(Quercus ellipsoidalis)

Conservation Status
northern pin oak
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N4 - Apparently Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Northern pin oak is a moderately fast growing, moderately long-lived, deciduous tree rising on a single trunk from a deep taproot and deep, widely spreading, lateral roots. In Minnesota mature trees are usually 40 to 60 tall and 18 to 24 in diameter at breast height, though individuals can reach over 70 in height and 43 in diameter.

The crown is open, rounded, and irregular. The branches are small. Lower branches are drooping. Stubs of dead branches on the lower trunk often persist for a long period of time, giving the trunk a ragged appearance.

The bark on young trees is dark grayish-brown to grayish-black, and smooth. On mature trees the bark is thicker and gray or grayish-brown. It is broken into short, rough, slightly blocky ridges separated by shallow furrows. On older trees it is rougher and breaks into irregular segments. Inner bark is light yellow.

Twigs are dark reddish-brown and hairless. Terminal buds are dark reddish-brown, egg-shaped, conspicuously 5-angled in cross section, and to 3 16 long. The scales near the tip are covered with silvery or tawny hairs but the buds are otherwise hairless. They are surrounded by a cluster of lateral buds.

The leaves are alternate, elliptic in outline, 2¾ to 5½ long, and 2½ to 5 wide. They are on hairless or almost hairless, ¾ to 1¾ long leaf stalks. The leaf blade is broadly angled or nearly squared off at the base. There are 2 or 3 primary lobes separated by deep, U-shaped sinuses and 9 to 22 smaller, bristle-tipped, secondary lobes per side. Most of the sinuses extend more than half way to the midrib. The deepest sinuses extend 65% to 90% of the way to the midrib. The upper surface is dark or light green, shiny, and hairless. The lower surface is pale green, hairless except for tufts of hair in the vein axils. In autumn the leaves turn deep red, yellow, brown, or purple.

Male and female flowers are borne on the same branch. Male flowers are in slender, greenish, 1½ to 4 long catkins that hang downward from buds on branchlets of the previous year. Female flowers are bright green and appear singly or in clusters of 2 or 3 on a short stalk rising from leaf axils on branchlets of the current year. The flowers appear after the leaves in early May to early June.

The fruit is an ellipsoidal or egg-shaped, ½ to long, 5 16 to ½ wide acorn. It occurs singly or in clusters of 2 or 3 on a short, stout stalk. A deep, scaly, bowl-shaped cup encloses to ½ of the lower part of the nut. The scales on the cup are flat and the tips of the scales are tightly appressed. The inside of the acorn cup is hairless or, rarely, has a ring of hairs around the scar. The acorns stay on the tree for two growing seasons. The kernel is yellow and tastes very bitter. It ripens in mid-August to mid-September of the second year.




40 to 60




The champion northern pin oak in Minnesota is on private property near Caledonia, in Houston County. In 2003 it was measured at 97 tall and 143 in circumference (45½ in diameter), with a crown spread of 85.


Flower Color




Similar Species


Northern pin oak is often misidentified as scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), but that species does not occur in Minnesota.

Eastern pin oak (Quercus palustris), a non-native tree, has deeper, wider sinuses. It does not occur in Minnesota.

Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) has mature bark broken into long, pale gray ridges that have the appearance of ski trails. Terminal buds much larger and are round in cross section, not 5-angled. The leaf stalks are tinged red or mostly red. The leaf blades are less deeply lobed. Most of the sinuses extend less than half way to the midrib. The deepest sinuses extend 45% to 70% of the way to the midrib. The upper leaf surface is shiny. The acorn is larger, to 1 long. The kernel is white.


Dry. Savannas, upland deciduous forests, sandy plains. Shade intolerant.




Early May to early June


Pests and Diseases


Oak Anthracnose (Apiognomonia errabunda)

Oak leaf gall midge (Polystepha pilulae)

Oak Wilt (Ceratocystis fagacearum)

Tubakia leaf spot (Tubakia dryina) causes brown or reddish-brown spots on the leaves of all oaks but especially those in the red oak group. It starts in early summer as small, brown, angular spots with a pale center.




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Fagales (beeches, oaks, walnuts, and allies)  


Fagaceae (beech)  
  Subfamily Fagoideae  


Quercus (oaks)  
  Subgenus Quercus (high-latitude oaks)  
  Section Lobatae (red oaks)  

Subordinate Taxa








Common Names


Hill’s oak

Jack oak

northern pin oak












The upper angle where a branch, stem, leaf stalk, or vein diverges.



A slim, cylindrical, drooping cluster of many flowers. The flowers have no petals and are either male or female but not both.

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Bark on Mature Trees

    northern pin oak   northern pin oak  

Bark on Older Trees

    northern pin oak      


    northern pin oak   northern pin oak  


    northern pin oak      


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Fall Color

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    northern pin oak   northern pin oak  






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Other Videos
  Trees with Don Leopold - pin oak

Uploaded on Oct 25, 2011

No description available.

  Quercus palustris

Uploaded on Sep 5, 2009

No description available.

  Pin Oak Tree
Pat Rick

Published on Mar 11, 2014 The Pin Oak tree is known as a top favorite among the shade trees. The color of the fall leaves in the Pin Oak trees is among the most dramatic and spectacular, and the acorns from pin oaks are abundant and loved by wildlife animals and game birds.




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  Greg Watson

Location: Apple Blossom Overlook Park

northern pin oak  

Avon Hills Forest SNA, North Unit

Badoura Jack Pine Woodland SNA

Baker Park Reserve

Beaver Creek Valley State Park

Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park

Big Woods Heritage Forest WMA

Blaine Preserve SNA

Boot Lake SNA

Brownsville Bluff SNA

Bunker Hills Regional Park

Bur Oak WMA

Cannon River Turtle Preserve SNA

Cannon River Wilderness Area

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carver Park Reserve

Chamberlain Woods SNA

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Chimney Rock SNA

Clear Lake SNA

Cleary Lake Regional Park

Clifton E. French Regional Park

Clinton Falls Dwarf Trout Lily SNA

Crow Wing State Park

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

Crystal Spring SNA

Dodge Nature Center

Dry Sand WMA

Edward Velishek Memorial WMA

Elm Creek Park Reserve

Englund Ecotone SNA

Falls Creek SNA

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park

Franconia Bluffs SNA

Frontenac State Park

Glendalough State Park

Great River Bluffs State Park

Greenleaf Lake SRA

Greenwater Lake SNA

Grey Cloud Dunes SNA

Hampton Woods WMA

Hastings Sand Coulee SNA

Hastings SNA

Helen Allison Savanna SNA

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

Itasca State Park

John A. Latsch State Park

John Murtaugh Memorial WMA

John Peter Hoffman Spring Brook Valley WMA

Keller Regional Park

Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA, Weaver Dunes Unit

King’s and Queen’s Bluff SNA

Lake Bemidji State Park

Lake Carlos State Park

Lake Elmo Park Reserve

Lake Louise State Park

Lake Maria State Park

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve

Lawrence Creek SNA

Lebanon Hills Regional Park

Lester Lake SNA

Lost Valley Prairie SNA

Mary Schmidt Crawford Woods SNA

McCarthy Beach State Park

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

Mille Lacs Moraine SNA

Minnesota Valley NWR, Black Dog Unit

Minnesota Valley NWR, Long Meadow Lake Unit

Minnesota Valley NWR, Louisville Swamp Unit

Minnesota Valley NWR, Rapids Lake Unit

Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area, Lawrence Unit

Mississippi River County Park

Moose Lake State Park

Mound Prairie SNA

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

Myre-Big Island State Park

Nerstrand Big Woods State Park

Ney Nature Center

Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo

Paul Bunyan Savanna

Pin Oak Prairie SNA

Pine Bend Bluffs SNA

Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

Quarry Park SNA

Rice Lake Savanna SNA

Rice Lake State Park

Ripley Esker SNA

Ritter Farm Park

River Terrace Prairie SNA

Robert Ney Memorial Park Reserve

Rushford Sand Barrens SNA

St. Croix Savanna SNA

St. Croix State Park

Sakatah Lake State Park

Sand Prairie Wildlife Management and Environmental Education Area

Savage Fen SNA

Savanna Portage State Park

Schoolcraft State Park

Seminary Fen SNA

Seven Mile Creek County Park

Seven Sisters Prairie

Seven Springs WMA

Shooting Star Prairie SNA

Sibley State Park

Spring Creek Prairie SNA

Spring Lake Park Reserve

Spring Lake Regional Park

Springbrook Nature Center

Stanley Eddy Memorial Park Reserve

Sunfish Lake Park

Tamarack Nature Center

Thompson County Park

Townsend Woods SNA

Twin Lakes SNA

Uncas Dunes SNA

Valley View Park

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Vermillion River WMA

Westwood Hills Nature Center

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Whitewater State Park

Wild River State Park

William O’Brien State Park

Wolsfeld Woods SNA

Wood-Rill SNA

Woodland Trails Regional Park

Zumbro Falls Woods SNA







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