Pin Oak, Quercus palustris

January 9, 2020

By Matt

Snapshot

Pin Oak Middle-Aged Tree

Did You Know?

Pin Oak’s common name comes from the many short, pin-like twigs on the main branches!

Snapshot

Pin Oak Leaves
  • Pin oak (Quercus palustrus) is a medium-sized red oak, deciduous, with an average height of 60 to 70 feet and a 25- to 40-foot spread. 
  • Its growth is pyramidal, becoming oval-pyramidal with age. 
  • It is most recognizable for its shape: pin oak has upright upper branches, middle branches that grow outward at a 90-degree angle from the trunk, and lower branches that grow downward.
  • In summer, pin oak has evenly green, lobed leaves 3 to 6 inches in length. 
  • In fall, the leaves turn russet, copper, or red. Young trees retain their brown leaves, shedding them when new growth appears in spring. 
  • Acorns are short and wide with a thin, saucer-shaped cap.

What Makes Pin Oak So Awesome?

Pin oaks are arguably the most graceful of the oaks, with their slender, arched branches and relatively smooth trunks. Popular for their attractive glossy leaves, beautiful shape, and autumn color, pin oaks are commonly used in landscaping. 

They survive transplanting well due to their shallow, fibrous roots, and are somewhat tolerant of wet soil and air pollution. They’re one of the faster growing oaks, averaging 12 to 15 feet in a 5- to 7- year period. Pin oaks grow taller than many other oaks, reaching heights of more than 100 feet, and can live 120 years or more. Pin oak acorns are eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, deer, squirrels and other rodents, and are an important food for ducks.

How Can I Grow One?

Pin oak prefers moist, rich, well-drained soil. It will tolerate wet soil, especially when established, and can take occasional seasonal flooding. It will also tolerate drought and poor soils, as long as the soil pH is slightly acidic. They can develop iron chlorosis if planted in soil with a pH greater than 7.5, so it’s a good idea to measure your soil’s pH before choosing a pin oak.

When planting, choose a location in full sun. Allow ample room for the branches to spread; pin oaks can reach 40 feet across. They’re excellent shade trees for large landscape areas, but because the lower branches grow downward, they shouldn’t be planted too close to streets or walkways. They’re safe trees to grow in urban areas because of their straight trunks and solidly attached branches. Pin oaks do well in USDA Zones 4 through 8. 

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