A medium to large tree that prefers well-drained upland soils. The inner bark (when cut with a knife) ranges from yellow to orange. Acorns may occasinally drop early, and are a valuable food source for wildlife, especially when they are the primary acorn in the area.
Eastern US and extreme southern Canada
Dry or rocky upland soils, rocky or sandy lowland soils.
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 pale gray ridges of northern red oak. Leaves of both species have long petioles, but those of black oak have deeper sinuses than those of northern red oak. Black oak acorns have larger caps that cover more of the nut.
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 more variably pubescent underneath. Mature bark of scarlet oak also has pale gray ridges, 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 than that of black oak. Shumard oak has a reddish-pink inner bark while black oak has a yellow or orange inner bark.