Landowner Fact Sheets

water oak Quercus nigra

Water oak is common along waterways and adjacent lowlands in the U.S. southeast. Water oak plays a valuable role in wetland ecosystems, providing both wildlife benefits and quality wood products.

range map Click to see more images. fall color

Water oak is shade intolerant and is best regenerated by clearcutting.

Water oak occurs on bottoms and on moist uplands; very commonly invades old fields. Water oak is a common ornamental throughout the South that adapts to a wide variety of soils.


A medium sized tree with a slender bole and rounded crown with ascending branches.

Timber Value
Water oak is used for lumber, veneer for plywood used in making fruit and vegetable boxes, and fuelwood.

Wildlife Value
Water oak provides food, cover, and habitat for a variety of species. Cavity nesting birds, e.g., red bellied woodpecker, great crested flycatcher, hairy woodpecker, use water oak snags to nest in.
Attracts squirrels, flying-squirrels, chipmunks, waterfowl, bluejay, turkey, bobwhite, deer

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
When young, water oak leaves are nearly evergreen; leaves of mature individuals persist long into the winter. Water oak is a principal alternate host to the fusiform rust fungus that debilitates pines; it is only minorly affected by the rust itself.

Latin Meaning
Quercus: Latin name / nigra: black

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.