Black Oak

Quercus velutina Lam. – Fagaceae – beech family

According to early survey records, black oaks and bur oaks were scattered large trees in open grassy areas (oak savannas or oak openings), which were common in our area at the time of European settlement.  In Albion, black oak is an uncommon street tree.

Black oak may be recognized by its blocky bark on the trunk and leaves with sharp projections that are more or less uniformly, although often very sparsely, hairy beneath. This species lacks the clusters of hairs at the major vein junctions that typically are found on the undersides of pin oak leaves.

Black oak is often confused with the red oak (Quercus rubra L.).  A typical black oak has blockier bark than a red oak, which has smoother bark that has “ski trail” markings on its trunk or higher branches.  Black oaks and red oaks hybridize frequently in nature and many intermediates are found in the woods.  The acorn of a typical black oak has a cap that extends at least a third of the length of the nut, while the acorn of a typical red oak has a cap that extends about a quarter of the length of the nut.  See the photos.  Black oak wood is not as valuable as red oak wood.