Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Quercus stellata
SPECIES: Quercus stellata
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Carey, Jennifer H. 1992. Quercus stellata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
Quercus boyntonii Beadle
Quercus mississippiensis Ashe
Quercus similis Ashe
Quercus drummondii Liebm.
Quercus stellata var. boyntonii (Beadle) Sarg.
Quercus stellata var. mississippiensis (Ashe) Little
Quercus stellata var. similis (Ashe) Sudw.
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
Delta post oak
dwarf post oak
scrubby post oak
Boynton post oak
Drummond post oak
bottomland post oak
bottom-land post oak
Mississippi Valley oak
The currently accepted scientific name of post oak is Quercus stellata
Wangenh. [30,47]. Post oak has been placed within the subgenus
Lepidobalanus, or white oak group .
The following varieties are recognized :
Quercus stellata var. paludosa Sarg., Delta post oak
Quercus stellata var. stellata, post oak
Identification of post oak is difficult because of its many growth
forms. At times, local populations have been given species or varietal
status. A rhizomatous dwarf post oak that grows near Lufkin, Texas, is
called Boynton post oak (Q. boyntonii). Drummond post oak, which grows
in deep sands of Texas, is thought to be a hybrid between post oak and
sand post oak (Q. margaretta) . It has also been considered a species (Q.
drummondii) by some authors [13,46].
Post oak hybridizes with the following species :
x Q. alba (white oak): Q. X fernowii Trel.
x Q. bicolor (swamp white oak): Q. X substellata Trel.
x Q. durandii (Durand oak): Q. X macnabiana Sudw.
x Q. havardii (Havard oak)
x Q. lyrata (overcup oak): Q. X sterrettii Trel.
x Q. macrocarpa (bur oak): Q. X guadalupensis Sarg.
x Q. minima (dwarf live oak): Q. X neo-tharpii A. Camus
x Q. mohriana (Mohr oak)
x Q. prinoides (dwarf chinkapin oak): Q. X stelloides Palmer
x Q. prinus (chestnut oak): Q. X bernardiensis W. Wolf
x Q. virginiana (live oak): Q. X harbisonii Sarg.
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Quercus stellata
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Post oak is widespread in the eastern and central United States from
southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, southern Connecticut, and
extreme southeastern New York; south to central Florida; and west to
southeastern Kansas, western Oklahoma, and central Texas. In the
Midwest, it grows as far north as southeastern Iowa, central Illinois,
and southern Indiana. It is an abundant tree in coastal plains and the
Piedmont and extends into the lower slopes of the Appalachian Mountains
Delta post oak occurs in bottomlands in eastern Texas and in the
Mississippi River valley in western Mississippi, southeastern Arkansas,
and Louisiana .
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES32 Texas savanna
AL AR CT DE FL GA IA IL IN KS
KY LA MA MD MS MO NC NJ NY OH
OK PA RI SC TN TX VA WV
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
14 Great Plains
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100
K083 Cedar glades
K084 Cross Timbers
K089 Black Belt
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
K115 Sand pine scrub
SAF COVER TYPES :
40 Post oak - blackjack oak
43 Bear oak
44 Chestnut oak
45 Pitch pine
46 Eastern redcedar
51 White pine - chestnut oak
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
69 Sand pine
70 Longleaf pine
71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak
72 Southern scrub oak
75 Shortleaf pine
76 Shortleaf pine - oak
78 Virginia pine - oak
79 Virginia pine
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
83 Longleaf pine - slash pine
84 Slash pine
91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak
110 Black oak
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Post oak occurs as a dominant tree in savannas and in forests adjacent
to grasslands. It forms pure stands or mixed stands with blackjack oak
(Quercus marilandica) in the prairie transition area of central Oklahoma
and Texas, where the eastern deciduous forests grade into the drier
western grasslands [43,47].
The following published classifications list post oak as a dominant or
Forest vegetation of the lower Alabama Piedmont 
The natural communities of South Carolina 
Forest vegetation of the Big thicket, southeast Texas 
Eastern Deciduous Forest 
Old-growth forests within the Piedmont of South Carolina 
The natural forests of Maryland: an explanation of the vegetation map of
SPECIES: Quercus stellata
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE :
Post oak is not a preferred timber species . It is difficult to
grade because of insect damage, and natural pruning and growth are slow
. The wood is very durable and classified as moderately to very
resistant to decay. It is used for railroad ties, mine timbers,
flooring, siding, lathing, planks, construction timbers, and fence posts
(hence its name) . Wood of Delta post oak is of better quality than
that of the typical variety, but it has a distinct yellow-tan cast which
requires separate handling as veneer. Otherwise, Delta post oak wood
has broad utility .
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Post oak provides cover and habitat for birds and mammals. Cavities
provide nest and den sites, and leaves are used for nest construction.
The acorns are an important food source for wildlife including
white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and squirrels and other rodents .
The tannin in leaves, buds, and acorns is toxic to sheep, cattle, and
Among 12 southeastern oak species, post oak ranked third in preference
to the fox squirrel . Acorns of white oak group species are
generally more palatable than black oak group acorns .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Post oak acorns contain 5.2 percent crude fat, 37.9 percent total
carbohydrates, 3.8 percent total protein, 0.08 percent phosphorus, 0.25
percent calcium, and 0.06 percent magnesium .
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Post oak is planted for soil stabilization on dry, sloping, stony sites,
which are unsuitable for other species .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Post oak is used as a shade tree and its bark is used for decorative and
protective mulch in landscaping .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Post oak is susceptible to most insects and diseases that attack eastern
oak species. Chestnut blight fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) attacks
post oak throughout most of its range .
Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), which has defoliated and killed
northeastern oak species, showed 17 percent survival in feeding trials
using post oak. This exotic moth has been spreading southward from New
England and, if not contained, could become a problem for post oak
Hardwood competition in pine plantations and hardwood expansion into
grasslands are often controlled with herbicides. Tebuthiuron and
triclopyr are extremely effective on post oak in grasslands of the Cross
Timbers area of Oklahoma .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Quercus stellata
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Post oak is a long-lived, native, deciduous tree with a crown of
horizontal branches. The varieties are distinguished by leaf shape,
acorn size, growth form, and site preferences. The typical variety
usually grows 50 to 60 feet (15.2-18.3 m) in height and 12 to 24 inches
(30-61 cm) in d.b.h. It rarely exceeds 100 feet (30.5 m) in height and
48 inches (122 cm) in d.b.h. . In the drier areas of its range
(Texas), post oak is typically only 30 to 40 feet (9-12 m) tall and 15
to 18 inches (38-46 cm) in d.b.h. Post oak is slow growing and lives
300 to 400 years [24,47]. Seedlings have especially thick taproots.
Most roots develop above underlying clay horizons .
Delta post oak is generally larger than the typical variety, growing to
about 100 feet (30 m) in height [13,46].
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Sexual: Post oak is monoecious. Seed production begins when the tree
is about 25 years old. Good crops occur at 2- to 3-year intervals.
Post oak does not produce as many acorns as white oak, blackjack oak,
black oak (Quercus velutina), or scarlet oak (Q. coccinea) .
Acorns germinate in autumn soon after falling. Germination is hypogeal.
The ideal seedbed is moist soil covered with 1 inch (2.5 cm) or more of
leaf litter. Height and diameter growth are slow; 10 year d.b.h. growth
generally averages less than 2 inches (5 cm). Post oak usually grows
more slowly than any associated trees except blackjack oak .
Average annual height growth of seedlings in Missouri during a 6 year
period was 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) .
Seedlings are resistant to drought but not to flooding . Post oak
seedlings were more drought tolerant than white oak, black oak, or
northern red oak (Q. rubra), primarily because of greater drought
tolerance of leaf and root cells .
Vegetative: Trees up to 10 inches (25 cm) in d.b.h. sprout prolifically
from the root crown after being top-killed. Post oak tends to have
fewer sprouts per clump than black, chestnut, white, or scarlet oaks
. Post oak sprouts grow faster than seedlings . In the Cross
Timbers area of Oklahoma, post oak often occurs in small clusters of two
to six trees. These clusters may represent a single individual because
the species occasionally reproduces vegetatively from roots, especially
under moisture stress .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Post oak occurs primarily on dry uplands with southerly or westerly
exposures  but may occur on terraces of smaller streams in
well-drained soil . Post oak is common to about 2,950 feet (900 m)
in elevation throughout its range and rare to about 4,920 feet (1,500 m)
in the southern Appalachian Mountains [13,47].
The soils are usually shallow, well-drained, coarse-textured, and
deficient in nutrients and organic matter. It commonly grows in
serpentine soils [56,58]. Post oak is often restricted to sites where a
heavy clay subsurface layer is within 1 foot (0.3 m) of the surface or
bedrock is within 2 to 3 feet (0.6-0.9 m) of the surface . It may
grow in shallow sand overlying beds of clay or gravel, but the typical
variety of post oak appears to be restricted from deep sands . Post
oak grows on drier clayhills that formerly supported longleaf pine
(Pinus palustris) .
Post oak occurs on sites too dry for white oak and southern red oak (Q.
falcata) , but on slightly more mesic sites than blackjack oak 
or eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) . Generally, excessive
soil moisture and inundation cause high mortality or severe stress to
post oak ; however, it dominates some flatwoods in southern Indiana
that are moist in the winter .
Delta post oak occurs in rich, moist bottomlands, usually on the highest
first bottom ridges and terraces. Soils are fine, sandy loam [13,47].
In addition to those species mentioned in Distribution and Occurrence,
less common overstory associates of post oak include hickories (Carya
spp.), southern red oak, scarlet oak, bluejack oak, live oak, shingle
oak (Q. imbricaria), chinkapin oak (Q. muehlenbergii), bluejack oak,
Shumard oak (Q. shumardii), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), sourwood
(Oxydendrum arboreum), red maple (Acer rubrum), winged elm (Ulmus
alata), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), and dogwood (Cornus spp.) .
Overstory associates of Delta post oak include green ash (Fraxinus
pennsylvanica), white ash (F. americana), white oak, water oak,
blackgum, sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), American elm (Ulmus
americana), winged elm, American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana),
American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), black willow (Salix nigra),
and hickories [46,47].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Post oak is intolerant of shade and competition. Because of slow growth
it is often overtopped by other species, including most oaks. It
persists and becomes dominant on poor sites because of its drought
resistance . Delta post oak is moderately intolerant of shade .
Post oak is common in the understory of pine (Pinus spp.)-hardwood
forests. In the absence of fire, post oak may become dominant depending
on site conditions and competition from associated species . In an
upland longleaf pine forest in the west Gulf Coastal Plain, post oak,
along with blackjack oak, bluejack oak, and black hickory (Carya
texana), became codominant and eventually replaced longleaf pine .
Post oak will expand into adjacent prairies in the absence of fire .
The post oak-blackjack oak association may be an edaphic climax on dry
Some of the most xeric sites of the South Carolina Piedmont are occupied
by old-growth communities of post oak, black oak, and Blue Ridge blueberry
(Vaccinium vacillans). Although the community appears to be in steady
state, it may evolve into a hickory-dominated community in the absence
of fire .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Post oak flowers from March to June depending on elevation and latitude.
Flowers appear at the same time as leaves. Acorns mature in one growing
season and drop soon after ripening from September through November.
Acorns exhibit no dormancy and germinate soon after dropping .
SPECIES: Quercus stellata
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Post oak is moderately resistant to fire . It is less tolerant than
blackjack oak, about as tolerant as black oak [5,21], and slightly more
tolerant than southern red oak . The basal bark on mature trees is
medium thick, and stands of post oak are moderately open . Smaller
trees are easily killed by fire, but sprout vigorously from the root
If fire is frequent in pine-oak-hickory associations, post oak is an
important constituent because fire provides an opportunity for invasion
by this more fire-resistant oak. If fire is infrequent or absent, post
oak also is absent .
In xeric sandhill communities of post oak, blackjack oak, and bluejack
oak, grass and other fuels are rare and fires are only occasional. When
fires do reach these communities, some mature trees may be killed, but
they sprout and the community is maintained .
In a study investigating the temperature of a surface fire as it moved
from the surrounding grasslands to the area beneath a single post oak,
the temperature increased sharply from the canopy edge to the midcanopy
position because the increase in fuel load was not accompanied by a
concomitant increase in fuel moisture percentage. The temperature then
decreased from the midcanopy to the base of the tree, despite continued
increase in fuel load and a slight decrease in fuel moisture. This
decline in temperature was presumably caused by the bole of the tree,
which stopped the leading edge of the fire .
Under historic fire regimes, a savanna is maintained because after a hot
surface fire grass grows back faster than the woody sprouts. In the
absence of fire, the woody canopy spreads and the grass dies back. If
fire returns, post oaks are likely to survive because the reduction in
grass fuel results in a much cooler fire. In a fire in central
Oklahoma, all savanna litter burned whereas only 45 percent of the
litter in the adjacent forest burned .
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 stellata
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
In general, small post oaks are top-killed by low-severity fire, and
more severe fires top-kill larger trees and may kill rootstocks as well.
Growing-season fires tend to be more detrimental to post oak than
dormant-season fires. In Texas, a winter head fire top-killed 20 percent
of a post oak and southern red oak understory; a late winter fire
top-killed just over 40 percent; a spring fire top-killed just under 40
percent; and a late summer fire top-killed 55 percent. Winter fires
killed on average less than 2 percent of rootstocks; summer fires killed
on average less than 10 percent. The top-kill was substantially greater
for oaks between 0.6 and 2.5 inches (1.5-6.4 cm) in diameter than those
between 2.6 and 4.5 inches (6.5-11.4 cm) in diameter. Diameter was
measured 6 inches (15.2 cm) above the ground line .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
Post oak in a savanna is more likely to be killed by surface fires than
post oak in a forest because of the grass fuel load in the savanna. In a
March surface fire in a central Oklahoma savanna, most post oaks smaller
than 1.6 inches (4 cm) in d.b.h. were top-killed and some trees up to
3.5 inches (9 cm) in d.b.h. were top-killed or severely damaged. In the
adjacent post oak-blackjack oak forest, however, few woody stems larger
than 1 inch (2.5 cm) were top-killed .
In a post oak-eastern redcedar community, post oak is likely to be
killed by fire because the eastern redcedar is highly flammable and
fires tend to be hot. In a severe fire in a post oak-eastern redcedar
community in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, 92 percent of all trees
(post oak, blackjack oak, and eastern redcedar) greater than 3 inches
(7.6 cm) in d.b.h. were top-killed and only 13.5 percent of the post
oaks and blackjack oaks sprouted. In the adjacent post oak-blackjack
oak forest, only 66 percent of trees greater than 3 inches (7.6 cm) were
top-killed by the fire and 70 percent sprouted .
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
If top-killed by fire, post oak up to 10 inches (25 cm) in d.b.h. sprout
vigorously from the root crown .
Because of sprouting, fire tends to increase the number of understory
post oak stems. Eight annual winter fires in Tennessee resulted in
2,000 stems per acre (4,940/ha) compared to 1,220 stems per acre
(3,010/ha) in the unburned control . If the high fire frequency
continues, however, the stem density may decrease as root systems are
killed. In a study on the Santee Experimental Forest in South Carolina,
43 years of periodic winter and summer low-severity fires and annual
winter and summer low-severity fires reduced the number of hardwood
stems (including post oak) between 1 and 5 inches (2.6-12.5) in d.b.h.
However, the number of stems less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in d.b.h.
increased slightly under all treatments except annual summer fires.
Root systems were weakened and eventually killed by annual burning
during the growing season .
Fire wounds on surviving trees allow entry of fungi which can cause
heart rot decay .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Many present-day post oak-blackjack oak stands were former savannas. In
the Wichita Forest Reserve in Oklahoma, the average age of stands
coincides with the advent of fire suppression in the reserve .
Forests may not revert back to savannas with prescribed burning because
post oak-blackjack oak forests are resistant to effects of fire once the
canopy closes and the grass fuel load is reduced . Fire, in
conjunction with herbicides, may be effective at eliminating post oak
Prescribed fires are used to maintain grasslands. Repeat summer fires
are effective at controlling woody species because they are hotter than
winter fires, and belowground carbohydrate reserves are lowest in the
summer . Post oak growing within a pine forest can also be
controlled with prescribed fire [3,53].
Equations for the estimation of fire-caused mortality have been
developed for post oak. In order to predict mortality, a manager needs
to know the tree d.b.h, the height of bark blackening, the width of bark
blackening 1 foot above the ground, and the season of fire. The
equations should only be applied to trees between 3 and 16 inches
(7.6-40.6 cm) in d.b.h. .
SPECIES: Quercus stellata
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