The Northern Pin oak or Swamp Spanish oak, is Quercus palustris, an oak in the red oak section, Lobatae, of the Genus Quercus. It is native to North America, primarily the eastern United States and Canada's southern Ontario. It is, however, one of the most international of oaks and is popular in Australia, New Zealand, and even Argentina. And it has been grown for so long in the UK, as early as 1800, that it is often considered to be native. It has even received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. This popularity is understandable. It is a large, deciduous tree with an impressive pyramidal form that becomes better with age, and it can easily exceed a hundred years. In youth slender branches dip gracefully at the tips while in maturity the branches grow strong and massive creating the perfect image of the majestic oak. In most cases it will reach 70 feet tall with a spread of 40 feet. There is a US National champion, however, that is over 143 feet . The foliage is also beautiful. The leaves are 5 to 7 lobed, pointed and deeply dissected and very similar to Nuttal and Scarlet oak. In midsummer they are a handsome, glossy, dark green. But in autumn they become a vibrant copper red. These rich tones on such a massive, but fine textured, tree makes the Pin oak one of the most impressive trees of the autumn landscape. And it is at this time that the acorns have ripened that provide so much sustenance for small mammals, which along with habitat, qualifies the Pin oak as one of the most desirable trees for a Wildlife-friendly garden. But the Pin oak also provides habitat for humans as well since it is a superb shade tree whose massive branches cast a wide and cooling shade. But in addition to all of these positive attributes this is a fast growing oak that can withstand urban pollution, compacted soils, heat, cold and even standing water (short periods). It can even withstand alkaline soils though leaf color will not be as good. Ideally it will do best on well-drained, acidic soils and in full sunlight. Owing to its size, of course, it is not well-suited to the small, urban plot. It is popular though on larger, country properties, public parks and can even thrive along roadways and parking islands.

Pin oak is not always found in the average nursery but it is generally available in the better nurseries world wide. It would make an attractive accompaniment to the other great international oak, the Common (English) oak, or Quercus robur.

Pin oak (Northern)


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