Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Quercus nigra


SPECIES: Quercus nigra
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Carey, Jennifer H. 1992. Quercus nigra. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : QUENIG SYNONYMS : Quercus aquatica Walt. Quercus microcarpa Small Quercus nigra var. heterophylla (Ait.) Ashe SCS PLANT CODE : QUNI COMMON NAMES : water oak possum oak spotted oak striped oak pin oak duck oak punk oak orange oak TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of water oak is Quercus nigra L. [25,50]. It has been placed within the subgenus Erythrobalanus or black oak group. There are no recognized varieties, subspecies, or forms. Water oak hybridizes with the following species [25,50]: x Q. falcata (southern red oak) = Q. X garlandensis Palmer x Q. incana (bluejack oak) = Q. X caduca Trel. x Q. laevis (turkey oak) = Q. X walteriana Ashe x Q. marilandica (blackjack oak) = Q. X sterilis Trel. x Q. phellos (willow oak) = Q. X capesii W. Wolf x Q. shumardii (Shumard oak) = Q. X neopalmeri Sudw. x Q. velutina (black oak) = Q. X demarei Ashe LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Quercus nigra
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Water oak occurs on the Southeastern Coastal Plain from southern New Jersey and Delaware to southern Florida and west to eastern Texas. It occurs north along the Mississippi Valley to southeastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and southwestern Tennessee [50]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood STATES : AL AR FL GA LA MD MS MO NJ NC OK SC TN TX VA BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K098 Northern floodplain forest K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K112 Southern mixed forest K113 Southern floodplain forest SAF COVER TYPES : 70 Longleaf pine 74 Cabbage palmetto 80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine 81 Loblolly pine 82 Loblolly pine - hardwood 83 Longleaf pine - slash pine 84 Slash pine 85 Slash pine - hardwood 88 Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf oak 89 Live oak 91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak 92 Sweetgum - willow oak 93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash 94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm 104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay 111 South Florida slash pine SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Water oak occurs primarily in bottomland forests. The following published classifications list water oak as a dominant species: The natural communities of South Carolina [33] Forest vegetation of the lower Alabama Piedmont [16] Eastern deciduous forest [52] Forest associations in the uplands of the lower Gulf Coastal Plain [36]


SPECIES: Quercus nigra
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : On good sites water oak produces moderate quality factory lumber [10], but on poor sites the wood is knotty, mineral stained, and often insect damaged [38]. Water oak veneer is used as plywood for fruit and vegetable containers [50]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Water oak provides cover, food, and habitat for wildlife. Cavity nesters such as the red-bellied woodpecker, great crested flycatcher, and hairy woodpecker nest in water oak snags [9]. A tall midstory of water oak within a pine forest provides habitat for the southern flying squirrel [25]. Water oak acorns are eaten by many animals including squirrels, chipmunks, waterfowl, blue jay, wild turkey, and northern bobwhite [8,48]. Blue jays and squirrels cache acorns in the fall and return to eat them in the winter [8,21,44]. Acorns of the black oak group are an especially important food source in the winter because those of the white oak group germinate soon after falling and, therefore, are unavailable [41,44]. Deer browse water oak [16]. PALATABILITY : Water oak acorns have a fairly high tannin content of 8.8 percent, which limits palatability [41]. In feeding trials to test acorn preference of fox squirrels, water oak ranked sixth in preference among the 12 southeastern acorn species tested [35]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Water oak acorns have 4.9 percent crude protein, 17.6 percent crude fiber, and 21.1 percent crude fat which makes them high in energy. They are low in nitrogen and phosphorus [41]. COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Water oak is frequently used to restore bottomland hardwood forests in the Southeast on land that was previously cleared for agriculture or pine plantations. Both direct seeding and planting methods work well [1,27,30,54]. Water oak performed well when planted on fill slopes in Decatur County, Tennessee. After 45 years, water oak averaged 96 feet (29.3 m) in height, 15 inches (38 cm) in d.b.h., and had an average stocking of 96 trees per acre (237 trees/ha) [27]. Water oak planted on canal-excavated material along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway had intermediate survival (greater than 40 percent) and a mean growth of 44.7 inches (113.60 cm) in 5 years [18]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Water oak is used as a shade tree [50]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Water oak is very susceptible to disease and insect attack when growing on impervious or dry terrace soils [38]. Trunk borers (Enaphalodes spp. and Prionoxystus spp.) and leaf hoppers (Erythroneura spp.) attack water oak along with root rot (Ganoderma curtisiicone) and cone rusts (Cronartium spp.). Although not seriously harmed itself, water oak is an extremely susceptible host to the alternate stage of fusiform rust (Cronartium quercuum f. sp. fusiforme), a serious disease of southern pines [55]. Trunk canker and heart rot are caused by a variety of organisms. Water oak is also parasitized by mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens) [50]. Water oak is highly susceptible to air pollution, especially sulfur dioxide. Flowers are easily killed by late frosts [50]. Water oak has great potential for fiber production on sites to which it is specifically adapted. Pine does poorly on many of these sites and could be replaced with water oak [23]. Clearcutting followed by planting or direct seeding is the best method to establish hardwood forests [30]. Competing vegetation and destruction of acorns by squirrels and chipmunks are the biggest problems associated with direct seeding. Moisture is a major limiting factor for water oak regeneration [54]. Collection, storage, stratification, and viability testing of water oak acorns are detailed [4]. Nutria uproot and eat seedlings. Translucent plastic tubes placed around newly planted seedlings were effective in protecting seedlings from nutria in Louisiana [2]. Herbicides such as 2,4,5-T, picloram, and glyphosate can be used to control water oak in pine plantations [31,50].


SPECIES: Quercus nigra
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Water oak is a medium-sized tree with glabrous twigs, membranous leaves, and a straight, slender trunk. On a good site, water oak can reach 105 feet (32 m) in height and attain 6.5 feet (2 m) in d.b.h. It is semievergreen in warmer parts of its range but completely deciduous in other areas [10,43]. Water oak has a shallow, spreading rooting habit [50]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Seed production and dissemination: Water oak is monoecious. It bears seed by age 20, and production is good on alternate years. The heavy acorns are disseminated by gravity, water, and animals [50] such as blue jays and ground squirrels, which cache acorns in the soil [8,21,44]. Germination and seedling development: Seed viability is high. Germination is hypogeal and occurs in the spring following maturation. Because of a generally late spring emergence, seedling mortality from flooding is low. The seedlings do not tolerate prolonged submergence. Because of the large seed, young seedlings have high initial survivorship regardless of available light, drought stress, or herbivory. Seedlings require abundant moisture for the entire growing season [45,50]. Under favorable conditions, water oak may grow 24 inches (60 cm) a year [50]. Water oak seedlings suppressed by shade, however, grew only 1.9 inches (4.7 cm) per year in a study along the Neches River in east Texas [45]. A suppressed individual will grow epicormic branches [50] Vegetative reproduction: If top-killed, water oak of all ages will sprout fairly efficiently from the root crown [38,45,50]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Water oak grows on levees, high ridges, and elevated margins of swamps, rivers, and hydric hammocks which flood deeply and frequently but drain rapidly because of relief [6,12,20,37,49]. Water oak will also grow on uplands to about 1,000 feet (300 m) in elevation where soils remain moist [10]. Water oak grows well on better drained silty clay or loamy soils and poorly on poorly drained clay soils. It grows primarily on Inceptisols [50]. Water oak is weakly to moderately tolerant of seasonal flooding. It can survive up to several months of flooded soil, but mortality is high if this is a yearly occurrence. Generally, water oak is tolerant of several weeks of flooding each growing season [3,7]. In addition to overstory associates mentioned in SAF cover types, common associates of water oak include Nuttall oak (Quercus nuttallii), white oak (Q. alba), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), pecan (Carya illinoensis), winged elm (Ulmus alata), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), white ash (Fraxinus americana), yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), rough-leaf dogwood (C. drummondii), honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos), Carolina laurelcherry (Prunus caroliniana), hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), swamp privet (Forestiera acuminata), spruce pine (Pinus glabra) [50]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Water oak is intolerant to semi-intolerant of shade [19,34,50]. It germinates in shade but requires moderate light for development. Because of slow early growth, water oak does not compete well [50]. Water oak is a frequent early hardwood invader [19]. In the absence of fire, it invades and eventually succeeds pine forests [11]. On fine-textured loess soils that retain moisture, water oak will colonize old abandoned fields if a seed source is nearby [40]. As a hardwood forest matures, water oak will stabilize or decline in abundance [19]. Water oak is generally considered a subclimax or transitional species [19,32,50]. Because of its weak to moderate tolerance of seasonal flooding, however, water oak may form a topographic climax on ridges elevated less than 5 feet (1.5 m) above floodplains [13,32,34]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Water oak staminate and pistillate flowers develop shortly before or at the same time as new leaves. Acorns mature in September of the second year and are dispersed from September through November [3,50].


SPECIES: Quercus nigra
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Water oak has relatively thin bark compared to other oaks [55] and is easily top-killed by even light fire. It survives fire by sprouting from the root crown [50]. Water oak's moist habitat and proximity to water discourages fire entry. Water oak leaves and other fuel along waterways are often moist and difficult to burn [42]. Water oak is excluded from upslope forests by periodic summer burning [37]. Based on flame applied directly to living bark, water oak is less resistant to fire than pine, southern magnolia, and sweet bay; of more-or-less equal resistance as red maple (Acer rubrum), flowering dogwood, water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica), and river birch (Betula nigra); and more resistant than sweetgum, American holly (Ilex opaca), and black cherry (Prunus serotina) [17]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/root sucker


SPECIES: Quercus nigra
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Water oak is easily damaged by fire [50]. Low-severity surface fires top-kill water oak less than 3 to 4 inches (7.6-10.2 cm) in d.b.h. The bark of larger trees is thick enough to protect the cambium from low-severity fires and the buds are above the heat of the fire. In a study on the Santee Experimental Forest in South Carolina, periodic winter and summer low-severity fires and annual winter low-severity fires were effective at reducing the number of hardwood stems (including water oak) between 1 and 5 inches (2.6-12.5 cm) in d.b.h. Annual summer fires also reduced the number of stems in that size class, as well as nearly eliminating all stems less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in d.b.h. Root systems were weakened and eventually killed by burning during the growing season [53]. The mean time in seconds for water oak cambium to reach the lethal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 deg C) when a standardized flame was applied to living bark was 30.2 seconds for 0.2 inch-thick (0.5 cm) bark, 61 seconds for 0.3 inch-thick (0.8 cm) bark, and 136 seconds for 0.4 inch-thick (1 cm) bark [17]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Water oak, including seedlings, sprout from the root collar if top-killed by fire. Larger water oaks that survive fire but have fire scars are extremely susceptible to butt and heart rot [50]. After being fire scarred, the average rate of spread of rot in water oak is 1.25 feet (0.4 m) per decade [46]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Hardwoods growing within a pine forest are often controlled with prescribed fire. Water oaks up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) in d.b.h. are top-killed and sprouts kept small and controllable with prescribed winter fires. Summer fires are also effective but are more detrimental to the wildlife food supply [5]. Herbicides combined with fire can be used to eradicate larger water oaks [51]. Because water oak leaves and habitat are often moist, fuels should be allowed to dry at least 3 weeks following a rain of 0.5 inch (1.3 cm) or more. Some fires will not carry even under ideal conditions of less than 4 percent fuel moisture, 20 to 30 percent relative humidity, and 2 miles (3.2 km) per hour winds within the stand [42]. Burning has only a slight effect on the quality of water oak browse. In one study, protein was slightly higher and phosphoric acid slightly lower on burned plots than on unburned plots [26].


SPECIES: Quercus nigra
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