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Water Oak

Quercus nigra


The water oak is a bottomland oak often found in poorly-drained areas near creeks or swamps. It is adaptable to well-drained soil and is sometimes used in landscaping. Acorns are high in tannin and not preferred unless it is the only acorn available, in which case it is a valuable food source for wildlife.


Southeastern US, from eastern Oklahoma to Kentucky, North Carolina and south to Florida.

Distribution Map


Poorly drained soil, swamps, river bottoms; also flat upland areas with poor drainage.


Small, oblong, and rounded; widest near the apex. May have no lobes or a few shallow lobes. Resembles a short, fat spoon in shape.

Water Oak


Gray to light gray, ranging from smooth to fissured. 

Water Oak


Small (1/2" to 3/4") ranging from brown to solid black. Cap is shallow, covering 1/4 to 1/3 of the nut. Very high in tannin, with yellow meat; however, it may be a primary food source for in swamps where no other acorns are present.

Water Oak


Look-alike oaks:

Willow Oak - bark, acorns, and habitat are similar. However, willow oak leaves are narrow along the entire length, and closely resemble willow leaves, while water oak leaves are broader near the apex.

Pin Oak - Bark, habitat and acorns are similar between the two; however, pin oak has a more typical, deeply-lobed leaf shape. Also, water oak does not have the dense, downward-sloping lower branches of pin oak.

Shingle Oak - Both shingle and water oak have oblong, non-lobed leaves and small acorns; however, shingle oak leaves have a uniform oblong shape, like laurel, while water oak leaves appear top-heavy (broader near the apex). Shingle oak bark is also rougher than water oak.

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