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. Valuable food source for deer, turkey, ducks, and hogs in swamps where it is the dominant oak tree. Acorns may sustain wildlife well into the winter during years with a heavy crop.


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


Light to medium gray, ranging from smooth to furrowed or fissured. Usually smoother than most other oaks.

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 at the apex.

Pin Oak - Smooth bark, wet habitat and acorns are similar between the two; however, pin oak has a more typical lobed red oak leaf shape. 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 are uniformly oval in shape, while water oak leaves are broader at the apex. Shingle oak bark is also rougher than water oak.

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