swamp white oak

(Quercus bicolor)

Conservation Status
swamp white oak
Photo by Randy
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status

FACW - Facultative wetland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACW - Facultative wetland


Swamp white oak is a slow growing, medium-sized to large, deciduous tree rising on a single trunk from a usually shallow, widely-spreading root system. It is long lived, often surviving 300 to 350 years. In Minnesota mature trees are usually 50 to 60 tall and up to 36 in diameter, though individuals can reach more than 80 in height.

In open areas the the trunk of a mature tree is short and forked, and the crown is irregular, broad, open, and rounded. In forested areas the trunk is long and straight, and the crown is narrow, upright, and oval. The upper branches are ascending, the lower ones drooping. The tree has a shaggy appearance due to persistent, short, crooked, drooping branches on the lower part of the tree and on the larger branches.

The bark on young trees is light brownish-gray with irregular, thin, loose, vertical strips. On mature trees the bark is thick and gray or brownish-gray, with narrow, flat-topped, rough, scaly ridges broken horizontally into blocks; and deep, irregular furrows. The bark on newer branches of all trees is light brown and ragged, often peeling with irregular, papery scales.

The twigs are moderately stout, dull yellowish-brown to reddish-orange, and hairless. Terminal buds are light brown to orangish-brown, hairless, egg-shaped or nearly globe-shaped, blunt, and 1 16 to long. They appear in a cluster at the end of the twig. Lateral buds diverge from the twig. There are often thread-like appendages (stipules) around the terminal bud.

The leaves are alternate, stiff, and leathery. They are usually inversely egg-shaped in outline, sometimes narrowly elliptic, 4 to 7 long, and 2¾ to 4½ wide. They are on hairy, light greenish-yellow, 3 16 to 1 long leaf stalks. The leaf blade is narrowly wedge-shaped or narrowly angled at the base and rounded at the tip. They have 3 to 9 small to mid-sized, broadly rounded, primary lobes per side separated by narrow, shallow sinuses and usually no secondary lobes. The deepest sinuses extend 15% to 50% of the way to the midrib. There is a prominent midvein with 5 to 7 secondary veins on each side. The secondary veins are arched and end at the tip of a lobe. The veins are light yellow to light green. The upper surface is dark green, glossy, and hairless. The lower surface is velvety to the touch, very pale green or whitish, and dull It is densely covered with minute, flat, appressed, star-shaped (5-rayed) hairs interspersed with longer, erect hairs that have 1 to 4 rays. In autumn the leaves turn usually brown or brownish-yellow, sometimes reddish.

Male and female flowers are borne separately on the same branch. Male flowers are in slender, greenish, ¾ to 3 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 when the leaves are about one-third developed in early to late May. They are pollinated by wind.

The fruit is a brown, ellipsoidal or broadly egg-shaped, to 1 long, ½ to wide acorn. It occurs usually in pairs, sometimes singly, on a slender, dark brown, 1½ to 2¾ long stalk. A scaly, tan or light gray, broadly bowl-shaped, to long, to 1 wide cup encloses to ½ of the lower part of the nut. There is usually a sparse fringe of 1 32 long, more or less stiff appendages (awns) around the rim of the cup. The scales on the cup have a prominent, warty bump and the tips of the scales are free and curved backward. The kernel is light brown. It ripens in mid-August to late mid-September of the first year. The kernel is sweet and edible.




50 to 80




The champion swamp white oak in Minnesota is on private property near Braham, in Chisago County. In 2009 it was measured at 60 tall and of 141 in circumference (45 in diameter).


Flower Color




Similar Species

  White oak (Quercus alba) twigs are hairy when young. The leaves have 2 or 3 primary and up to 5 secondary lobes. The deepest sinuses extend 50% to 95% of the way to the midrib. The acorn cup encloses no more than of the nut.  

Lowland forests




Early to late May


Pests and Diseases


oak rough bulletgall wasp (Disholcaspis quercusmamma)

powdery mildew




Distribution Map



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








Locally common in the Mississippi River floodplain and the Minnesota River valley to Le Seuer County, rare elsewhere.

  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 Quercus (white oaks)  

Subordinate Taxa






Quercus bicolor var. angustifolia

Quercus bicolor var. cuneiformis

Quercus bicolor var. platanoides


Common Names


swamp white oak













A stiff, bristle-like appendage at the tip of the glume, lemma, or palea of grass florets.



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



A small, leaf-like, scale-like, glandular, or rarely spiny appendage found at the base of a leaf stalk, usually occurring in pairs and usually dropping soon.

Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.

Alfredo Colon

    swamp white oak      


    swamp white oak   swamp white oak  
    swamp white oak   swamp white oak  
    swamp white oak      



Pair of tiny acorns just beginnning to take form on a peduncle/stem of a Swamp White Oak, Owatonna, MN, June 2021.

    swamp white oak      

Swamp white oak foliage, Freeborn County, MN, August 2017

    swamp white oak      
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos





  Quercus bicolor - Swamp White Oak
Virens (Latin for greening)
  Quercus bicolor - Swamp White Oak  



Visitor Videos

Share your video of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.


Other Videos
  Trees with Don Leopold - swamp white oak

Uploaded on Nov 4, 2011

  Swamp White Oak
iTrees.com Videos

Uploaded on Jun 9, 2011

  255 year old Quercus Bicolor (Swamp White Oak)
D Hook

Published on Sep 5, 2012

During a visit to Fredericktown, OH, for the tomato festival, I noticed a large crown of an oak tree from about a city block away. I followed the lure of the large limbs, and here is what I found...

  Plant Walks With Mike Pascoe "Quercus Bicolor" Swamp White Oak

Uploaded on Oct 19, 2011


Michael Pascoe is the head of the horticulture program at Fanshawe College in London Ontario. He is a wacky plant nut and a great prof. who knows the in's and out's of the horticulture world!




Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this plant.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Albany, NY

swamp white oak  
June 2021

Location: Owatonna, MN

Pair of tiny acorns just beginnning to take form on a peduncle/stem of a Swamp White Oak, Owatonna, MN, June 2021.

swamp white oak

August 2017

Location: Freeborn County, MN

Swamp white oak foliage

swamp white oak

MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings








Last Updated:

© MinnesotaSeasons.com. All rights reserved.

About Us

Privacy Policy

Contact Us