A medium to large tree that prefers well-drained upland soils. The inner bark ranges from yellow to orange. Acorns are high in tannin, but will be used by wildlife when convenient or when no preferred food source is available.
Eastern US and extreme southern Canada
Dry or rocky upland soils, rocky or sandy lowland soils.
Medium to dark gray, sometimes almost black, with fairly coarse ridges and grooves running vertically. Occasionally, the ridges may be broken up into a more charcoal-like pattern. Young bark is smoother, lighter gray, and usually with fissures (cracks) running the length of the branch or trunk.
Northern Red Oak - leaves, young bark, and general appearance may resemble northern red oak. However, the black oak has more uniform dark gray bark and lacks the silvery-gray plates of northern red oak. Leaves have deeper sinuses than those of northern red oak. Acorn caps cover more of the nut than those of northern red oak. Inner bark of black oak is yellow or orange, while inner bark of northern red oak is red or pinkish.
Scarlet Oak - leaves may resemble scarlet oak, but sun leaves of scarlet oak have deeper sinuses, almost reaching the midvein. Underside of scarlet oak leaves is smooth except for a small amount of hairs between the midvein and side veins, while black oak leaves are generally more pubescent underneath. Mature bark of scarlet oak also has silvery-gray plates, unlike black oak. Scarlet oak has a reddish to pinkish inner bark.
Shumard Oak - Black oak has rougher bark than shumard oak, and the leaves are often larger as well. Underside of shumard oak leaves have tufts of brown hairs between the midvein and side veins. Acorn cap of shumard oak is shallower (flatter) than that of black oak. Shumard oak has a reddish-pink inner bark while black oak has a yellow or orange inner bark.