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An individual instance of Quercus palustris (pin oak)
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Pin oak is a moderately large tree with normal heights ranging from 70 to 90 feet with diameters between 2 and 3 feet.  Trees reaching 120 feet tall with 5-foot diameters are occasionally encountered on good sites.  The bark of this tree is smooth, reddish to grayish-brown during the juvenile period, becoming darker and shallowly fissured as the tree growth slows with age.  The lower branches of pin oak are prostrate to descending, with smooth, slender, reddish-brown twigs.  Clusters of pointed buds are located at the tips of twigs.  Three to five inch alternate leaves have 5 to 7 points or lobes with bristled tips and deep C-shaped sinuses.  The leaves change in color from a dark green to a deep scarlet red in fall.  The leaves are deciduous but will usually persist on the tree into winter.

The flowers of pin oak emerge soon after new leaves unfold in spring (April to mid-May).  The acorns that develop are roundish, short stalked, 3/8 to 1/2 inches long, and capped with a thin and shallow saucer-like cup.  The acorns will take 16 to 18 months to develop from pollination to maturity.  When mature the acorn turns light brown to reddish-brown, and will drop from September to November.  In 30 to 35 year old stands of pin oak, 4,000 to 20,000 sound acorns per acre yields have been documented.  There are 410 acorns per pound.

Pin oak is often confused with scarlet oak (Q. coccinea) due to similar appearance.  Scarlet oak is an upland species that prefers soils with good drainage on dry sites.


Even though the wood is heavy, strong, and hard, pin oak is typically used for fuel wood, wood pulp, and railroad ties, since it tends to warp.  Due to this species' form, adaptability, growth rate, longevity, and fall foliar display, it is popular for ornamental usage.  Pin oak is utilized by many game species, especially wood ducks, white-tail deer, and wild turkey.  Due to its use by these highly sought after animals, pin oak is commonly planted for food plots.

Adaptation and Distribution

Pin oak's native range spans from Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Michigan, to Kansas south to North Carolina and northern Arkansas.  This tree grows under a wide range of site conditions, but is a true bottomland tree.  It is seldom found growing above elevations of 800 feet, or on sloped ground.  Pin oak grows in practically pure stands with good growth rates on wet, shallow sites with heavy soils that drain poorly.  On better quality sites it will often grow larger, but is normally out competed by other species.


Both seed and stump sprouts are sources of natural regeneration for pin oak.  Although viable acorns sink, this species is often dispersed by water, as well as animals, wind, and gravity.  In areas that are regularly flooded, acorn damage by insects is reduced and germination is typically faster than most other species.  Since there is more than adequate annual seed yields and adequate moisture on the forest floor in spring, it is not uncommon to see seedlings blanketing the ground under pin oak.

Pests and Potential Problems

Insects that represent a threat to the pin oak include the European gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar L.) The gypsy moth was introduced into the United States in 1869 and has spread across many parts of the eastern forest, defoliating millions of acres of hardwood forest during infestations. Young trees are especially at risk.


Dickerson, J. (2002).  Plant fact sheet for pin oak (quercus palustris Muenchh). Retrieved from

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This particular organism is believed to have managed means of establishment.

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Quercus palustris


sec. Tennessee Flora 2014

common name: pin oak
family: Fagaceae
Identified 2016-03-23 by Patrick Phoebus


Science Building, Alumni Drive, Rutherford County, Tennessee, US
Click on these geocoordinates to load a map showing the location: 35.846°, -86.3649°
Coordinate uncertainty about: 10 m.
Altitude: 197 m.

Location calculated as average of its images' coordinates.

Occurrences were recorded for this particular organism on the following dates:

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whole tree (or vine) - general
whole tree (or vine) - winter
bark - unspecified
leaf - showing orientation on twig

Tennessee Flora 2014 =

Tennessee Flora Committee, 2014. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee (editors: E. W. Chester, B. E. Wofford, J. Shaw, D. Estes, and D. H. Webb). The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN, US.

Metadata last modified: 2019-10-16T22:24:42.018-05:00
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