Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Quercus palustris
SPECIES: Quercus palustris
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Carey, Jennifer H. 1992. Quercus palustris. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
swamp Spanish oak
The currently accepted scientific name of pin oak is Quercus palustris
Muenchh. . It has been placed within the subgenus Erythrobalanus, or
red (black) oak group . There are no recognized varieties,
subspecies, or forms. Pin oak hybridizes with the following species
x Q. coccinea (scarlet oak)
x Q. imbricaria (shingle oak): Q. X exacta Trel.
x Q. phellos (willow oak): Q. X schochiana Dieck
x Q. rubra (northern red oak): Q. X columnaris Laughlin
x Q. shumardii (Shumard oak): Q. X mutabilis Palmer & Steyerm.
x Q. velutina (black oak): Q. X vaga Palmer & Steyerm.
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Quercus palustris
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Pin oak occurs primarily along major rivers and on glacial till plains
in the north-central and eastern United States. It is distributed from
southwestern New England; west to extreme southern Ontario, southern
Michigan, northern Illinois, and Iowa; south to Missouri, east Kansas,
and northeastern Oklahoma; and east to central Arkansas, Tennessee,
central North Carolina, and Virginia .
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
AR CT DE IL IN IA KS KY MD MA
MI MO NJ NY NC OH OK PA RI TN
VT VA WV ON
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K098 Northern floodplain forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
62 Silver maple - American elm
65 Pin oak - sweetgum
95 Black willow
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Pin oak is found in bottomland hardwood communities. There are four
variants of the SAF cover type pin oak-sweetgum (Liquidambar
styraciflua): white oak (Quercus alba)-pin oak-sweetgum, pin
oak-American elm (Ulmus americana), pin oak-red maple (Acer rubrum), and
pure pin oak . Nearly pure even-aged stands of pin oak are known as
"pin oak flats" . A pin oak-cherrybark oak (Quercus falcata var.
pagodifolia) community occurs in the Mississippi River Valley in
The following publication lists pin oak as a dominant species:
Forests of the Illinoian Till Plain of southwestern Ohio 
SPECIES: Quercus palustris
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE :
Pin oak does not self-prune, so the wood has many small knots which
reduce its quality and utility. The hard, heavy wood is used locally
for construction timbers, mine props, and fuel [19,23].
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Pin oak acorns are an important food for wildlife including white-tailed
deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, woodpeckers, bluejays, and waterfowl.
Acorns are an especially important food source for wood ducks and
mallards during fall migration . Bottomland hardwoods that are
seasonally flooded provide nesting sites for colonial waterbirds and
many passerines . Pin oak is an important species in greentree
reservoirs (artificially flooded areas) that attract and provide food
for migrating waterfowl [19,25].
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Pin oak acorns contain on average 15.4 percent crude fat, 45.4 percent
total carbohydrates, 3.8 percent total protein, 0.08 percent phosphorus,
0.04 percent calcium, and 0.06 percent magnesium .
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Pin oak is recommended for graded/top-soiled mine spoils. In southern
Illinois, pin oak seedlings (both planted and direct seeded) had among
the best survival and growth of nine oak species tested on graded cast
overburden covered with about 16 inches (40 cm) of eroded old field
surface soil . Pin oak has naturally established on surface-mined
lands in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Pin oak is widely planted as a shade tree and ornamental. It
transplants well and tolerates urban stresses such as street salt, acid
rain, and smoke [7,1,19,26]. Black ink can be made from twig galls on
pin oak .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Many bottomland hardwood forests were cleared for agriculture during the
settlement period. Currently, some of this land is being reforested to
provide wildlife habitat [1,3,21]. Pin oak is highly suited for direct
seeding. Information on seed collection, storage, sowing, site
preparation, and timing for bottomland hardwood reforestation is
detailed . Pin oak acorns can be held in cold storage (35 to 40
degrees Fahrenheit [2-5 deg C]) with 90 percent viability for 2 years,
possible longer .
To provide habitat and food for wintering waterfowl, bottomland forests
composed of pin oak and other flood-tolerant, mast-producing species are
often impounded during the winter. The shallow water is drawn down in
the early spring to prevent tree damage. Twenty years of dormant-season
flooding did not damage pin oak, although stand basal area growth was
reduced 10 percent. After 25 years, however, some pin oaks had
developed bole swelling at or just above the flood water level. The
swelling caused fissures which provided entry for fungi . Mature
pin oak survived only 3 years on permanently flooded land when water
levels were artificially raised by dams on the upper Mississippi River.
Pin oaks 2 feet (0.6 m) above the new pool level showed increased growth
rates during the 5 years after the rise in water level .
Pin oak can be harvested by clearcutting at 40-year intervals. Pin oak
grows rapidly on alluvial soils. One stand in Illinois averaged 62 feet
(18.9 m) in height and 12 inches (30.5 cm) in d.b.h. after only 35 years
Pin oak is susceptible to several oak diseases, including oak wilt
(Ceratocytis fagacearum), oak leaf blister (Taphrina caerulescens), pin
oak blight (Endothia gyrosa), and Dothiorella canker (Dothiorella
quercina). It is also susceptible to many insects, including
defoliators, wood borers, gall wasps, and weevils. Some of the more
important pests include gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), obscure scale
(Melanaspis obscura), oak leaftier (Croesia semipurpurana), pin oak
sawfly (Caliroa lineata), scarlet oak sawfly (C. quercuscoccineae),
forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria), leaf roller (Argyrotaenia
quercifoliana), horned oak gall wasp (Callirhytis cornigera), and gouty
oak gall wasp (C. quercuspunctata) .
Pin oak leaves appear able to tolerate acid rain. Less than 1 percent
of the total leaf area was injured when trees were exposed to simulated
acid rain of pH 2.5 for 20 minutes each day for 10 days .
Leafed-out 2-year-old pin oak seedlings were exposed to salt solutions
for 5 weeks to mimic the impact of deicing salts. The seedlings had a
fairly high degree of foliar injury and high stem sodium and chloride
levels, but height growth and dry matter production were not affected by
the treatment .
Ornamental pin oaks planted on alkaline soils develop foliar chlorosis
because of nutrient deficiencies .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Quercus palustris
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Pin oak is a fast-growing, native, deciduous, monoecious tree. It is
physiologically mature at 80 to 100 years. Little is known of its
maximum age, but one old growth stand averaged 138 years of age. On
good sites, pin oak may reach 120 feet (37 m) in height and 60 inches
(150 cm) in d.b.h. , but the tree is usually 60 to 80 feet (18-24 m)
tall at maturity [22,25]. Acorns are 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) or less in
length, the smallest of the tree oaks .
An open-grown pin oak has a well-defined main trunk through most of the
wide, symmetrical crown. The upper branches are ascending, the middle
branches horizontal, and the lower branches inclined downward to give
pin oak a distinctive pyramidal shape. Lower branches remain alive on
open-grown trees. The branches die in closed stands, but are retained
for many years . There are numerous small stiff branches on the
trunk and larger limbs .
Seedlings develop a strong taproot in well-aerated soils. As trees
become older, the root system becomes more fibrous .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Sexual reproduction: Seed production begins when the tree is about 20
years old, although open-grown trees may begin producing by 15 years.
Poor acorn crops occur in 3- to 4-year intervals. Dissemination is by
animals, primarily squirrels, mice, blue jays, and woodpeckers .
Over a 4-week period, blue jays transported and cached 54 percent of the
available pin oak acorn crop from a stand on the campus of Virginia
Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. The high
percentage may be skewed, however, because of the high number of
consumers per tree on a campus compared to a forest. The mean transport
distance between seed trees and caches was 0.7 mile (1.1 km), with a
range of 0.06 to 1.2 miles (0.1-1.9 km). Pin oak acorns fall within the
preferred size range [0.4 to 0.7 inches (1.1-1.7 cm) in diameter] of
blue jays .
Pin oak acorns require a 30- to 40-day cold stratification period at 32
to 41 degrees Fahrenheit (0-5 deg C). Viability is high. Acorns
submerged in cold water for as long as 6 months were not damaged. A
thick waxy coating on the pericap restricts water absorption .
Seedling establishment is often high after a good acorn crop year. In a
study in southeast Missouri, there were an average of 3,500 seedlings
per acre (8,650/ha) following a high mast yield . Pin oaks are most
likely to establish if the litter layer is 0.5 to 2 inches (1.3-5.1 cm)
deep. Pin oak germination and early establishment can occur under a
dense canopy, but seedlings will die after 2 to 3 years unless they are
released. In a study of pin oak regeneration in southern Illinois, 1-
to 2-year-old seedlings were more abundant under a closed canopy than in
an open stand where the ground cover was dense. Seedlings over 5 years
of age, however, were more abundant in the open stands .
Two-year-old pin oak seedlings subjected to three shade treatments
increased their shoot/root ratio by 26 percent with increasing shade, a
reaction typical of intolerant species .
In a study in southern Illinois, pin oak reproduction was most abundant
in mixed hard-hardwood communities composed of oaks (Quercus spp.) and
hickories (Carya spp.); low in mixed soft-hardwood communities composed
of silver maple (Acer saccharinum), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvania),
sweetgum, hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), and American sycamore
(Platanus occidentalis); low in eastern cottonwood (Populus
deltoides)-black willow (Salix nigra) communities; low in old fields;
and rare in newly formed land (i.e., exposed sand bars) .
Pin oak seedlings are classified as intermediate in tolerance to shallow
flooding during the growing season [12,19]. After 60 days of completely
saturated soils, pin oak seedlings averaging 8.2 inches (20.8 cm) in
height had no shoot mortality, sparse adventitious root formation, and
some mortality of secondary roots. Seedlings under saturated conditions
grew significantly (p<0.01) taller than the control seedlings . In
another study, seedlings subjected to shallow flooding (leaves and tops
exposed) during the growing season survived 84 days, but root growth
ceased, growth was poor, and recovery was slow. Seedlings survive only
10 to 20 days of complete inundation during the growing season. Pin oak
seedlings suffer no adverse effect from dormant season flooding .
Vegetative reproduction: Pin oak seedlings and young trees sprout
vigorously from the root collar if top-killed .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Pin oak occurs primarily on bottomland sites that usually flood
intermittently during the dormant season but not during the growing
season. These sites include clay flats, depressions where water
accumulates in winter, and clay ridges of first bottoms. Pure or nearly
pure stands of pin oak grow on level or near level moist uplands such as
the glacial till plains of southwest Ohio, southern Illinois, southern
Indiana, and northern Missouri [8,19].
It grows on acidic, poorly drained, clay to clayey loam soils (Entisols
and Alfisols) .
Overstory associates not mentioned in Distribution and Occurrence
include swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), willow oak, overcup oak (Q.
lyrata), bur oak (Q. macrocarpa), Nuttall oak (Q. nuttallii), swamp
chestnut oak (Q. michauxii), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), green ash,
slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), shellbark hickory (Carya laciniosa),
shagbark hickory (C. ovata), river birch (Betula nigra), Ohio buckeye
(Aesculus glabra), and American sycamore [8,19]. Shrubs and small tree
associates include American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), possumhaw
(Ilex decidua), and poison-ivy (Toxidendron radicans) . The
herbaceous understory associates include sedges (Carex spp.), bedstraw
(Galium spp.), and skullcap (Scutellaria spp.) [5,25].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Pin oak is intolerant of shade. It usually occurs as a dominant or
codominant in even-aged stands. Suppressed trees usually die within a
few years .
Pin oak occurs primarily in early successional stages of bottomland
forests. During drought or as the surface drainage in swamps and
sloughs improves, pin oak invades and replaces the first pioneer trees
such as black willow, eastern cottonwood, blackgum, swamp privet
(Forestiera acuminata), and buttonbush (Cephalanthus spp.). With
further surface drainage, pin oak communities are succeeded by white
oak, cherrybark oak, red maple, American elm, sweetgum, and hickory
[5,8,14,25]. Pin oak communities may be edaphic climaxes on heavy wet
soils because they produce abundant regeneration which, if released,
grows faster on these sites than competing species [8,19].
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Pin oak flowers in the spring about the same time as the leaves appear.
Acorns mature at the end of the second growing season and are dispersed
from September through early December .
SPECIES: Quercus palustris
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Pin oak is susceptible to fire due to its relatively thin bark. If
top-killed by fire, pin oak sprouts from the root collar . Although
fire is infrequent in pin oak communities during the spring and early
summer because of wet conditions, surface fires may occur in the fall
and winter, especially during drought years [23,25].
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/root sucker
SPECIES: Quercus palustris
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Light surface fires in bottomland hardwood stands readily top-kill pin
oak seedlings and saplings. Under more severe fire conditions,
sawtimber-sized trees may also be top-killed. Large trees often sustain
fire wounds [20,23,25].
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Top-killed seedlings and young pin oak trees sprout from the root
collar. Fire wounds facilitate entry of decay-causing fungi [19,20].
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Fire should not be used as a management tool in bottomland hardwood
forests because of the susceptibility to fire of most bottomland
References for species: Quercus palustris
1. Allen, James A.; Kennedy, Harvey E., Jr. 1989. Bottomland hardwood reforestation in the lower Mississippi Valley. Slidell, LA: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wetlands Research Center; Stoneville, MS: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experimental Station. 28 p. 
2. Ashby, W. Clark. 1990. Growth of oaks on topsoiled mined lands. In: Van Sambeek, J. W.; Larson, M. M., eds. Proceedings, 4th workshop on seedling physiology and growth problems in oak plantings; 1989 March 1-2; Columbus, OH. (Abstracts). Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-139. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station: 20. Abstract. 
3. Becknell, Randy; Journet, Alan. 1991. Bottomland forest restoration based on historical surveys and accounts (Missouri). Restoration & Management Notes. 9(2): 114. 
4. Bonner, F. T.; Vozzo, J. A. 1987. Seed biology and technology of Quercus. Gen. Tech. Rep. SO-66. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 21 p. 
5. Braun, E. Lucy. 1936. Forests of the Illinoian till plain of southwestern Ohio. Ecological Monographs. 6(1): 91-149. 
6. Darley-Hill, Susan; Johnson, W. Carter. 1981. Acorn dispersal by the blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata). Oecologia. 50: 231-232. 
7. Evans, L. S.; Curry, T. M. 1979. Differential responses of plant foliage to simulated acid rain. American Journal of Botany. 66(8): 953-962. 
8. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. 
9. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. 
10. Green, William E. 1947. Effect of water impoundment on tree mortality and growth. Journal of Forestry. 45(2): 118-120. 
11. Hosie, R. C. 1969. Native trees of Canada. 7th ed. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Forestry Service, Department of Fisheries and Forestry. 380 p. 
12. Hosner, John F.; Boyce, Stephen G. 1962. Tolerance to water saturated soil of various bottomland hardwoods. Forest Science. 8(2): 180-186. 
13. Hosner, John F.; Minckler, L. S. 1960. Hardwood reproduction in the river bottoms of southern Illinois. Forest Science. 6(1): 67-77. 
14. Hosner, John F.; Minckler, Leon S. 1963. Bottomland hardwood forests of southern Illinois--regeneration and succession. Ecology. 44(1): 29-41. 
15. Landin, Mary C. 1979. The importance of wetlands in the north central and northeast United States to non-game birds. In: DeGraaf, Richard M.; Evans, Keith E., compilers. Management of north central and northeastern forests for nongame birds: Proceedings of the workshop; 1979 January 23-25; Minneapolis, MN. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-51. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station: 179-188. 
16. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. 
17. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. 
18. McCarthy, Joseph J.; Dawson, Jeffrey O. 1991. Effects of drought and shade on growth and water use of Quercus alba, Q. bicolor, Q. imbricaria and Q. palustris seedlings. In: McCormick, Larry H.; Gottschalk, Kurt W., eds. Proceedings, 8th central hardwood forest conference; 1991 March 4-6; University Park, PA. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-148. Radnor, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 157-178. 
19. McQuilkin, Robert A. 1990. Quercus palustris Muenchh. pin oak. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., tech. coords. Silvics of North America. Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: 709-714. 
20. Myers, Charles C.; Buchman, Roland G. 1984. Manager's handbook for elm-ash-cottonwood in the North Central States. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-98. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. 11 p. 
21. Newling, Charles J. 1990. Restoration of bottomland hardwood forests in the lower Mississippi Valley. Restoration & Management Notes. 8(1): 23-28. 
22. Olson, David F., Jr. 1974. Quercus L. oak. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 692-703. 
23. Putnam, John A. 1951. Management of bottomland hardwoods. Occasional Paper 116. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 60 p. 
24. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. 
25. Thomson, Paul M.; Anderson, Roger C. 1976. An ecological investigation of the Oakwood Bottoms Greentree Reservoir in Illinois. In: Fralish, James S.; Weaver, George T.; Schlesinger, Richard C., eds. Central hardwood forest conference: Proceedings of a meeting; 1976 October 17-19; Carbondale, IL. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University: 45-64. 
26. Townsend, A. M. 1989. The search for salt tolerant trees. Arboricultural Journal. 13(1): 67-73. 
27. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. 
28. Vogel, Willis G. 1977. Revegetation of surface-mined lands in the East. In: Forests for people: A challenge in world affairs: Proc. of the Society of American Foresters 1977 national convention; 1977 October 2-6; Albuquerque, NM. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters: 167-172. 
29. Yahner, R. H.; Storm, G. L.; Melton, R. E.; Vecellio, G. M.; Cottam, D. F. 1991. Floral inventory and vegetative cover type mapping of Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site. Tech. Rep. NPS/MAR/NRTR - 91/050. Philadelphia, PA: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Mid-Atlantic Region. 149 p. 
30. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. 
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