Thursday, November 3, 2011

White Oak

One of my favorite trees is the white oak -- Quercus alba. Wildlife like it too. The "sweet" acorns have less tannin than many other oaks and are rich in fat. Animals need to wait longer than kids for their annual "acorn candy" as good crops come only every 4 to 10 years. White oak acorns have a bowl-shaped, shaggy cap. In the photo below, white oak acorns are on the left and red oak acorns are on the right.

White oak trees have shaggy, ashy-gray, sometimes "white" bark. It is the leaves in fall though, that make the tree stand out. The leaves turn a deep red, maroon or purple color. Their leaves seem softer with round lobes, compared to the robust, pointy-lobed leaves of red oak. I noticed that white oaks fared okay in the recent snowstorm, whereas the heavy leaves of the red oak laden with snow wreaked havoc all over.

A white oak tree in fall (November 2, 2011)

The fall colors, highlighted by the oaks, are still gorgeous. Squirrels and blue jays are busy caching acorns and other nuts. The cheek pouches of chipmunks are bulging with seeds. Flocks of small birds are passing through, fattening up on insects slowed by the cool temperatures as they head south. A gray squirrel is building a winter nest of red oak leaves at the top of a white pine at the edge of our yard. Lots of activity outside as animals prepare for winter. Take some time to stop and watch, it is fun to see them bustling about.

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