Upper branches of a mature Quercus phellos (Willow Oak).
Close-up of Quercus phellos (Willow Oak) foliage.

Quercus phellos (Willow Oak)

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Quercus phellos, commonly called willow oak, are so-named for the resemblance of their leaves and bark to those of willow trees (genus Salix); rather than the toothy-lobed leaves and wide-wrinkled bark of typical oaks, Quercus phellos has smoother bark and long, lanceolate leaves with hair-like tips. Willow oak is a fast grower, and can grow to a moderate height of 40-75' in yard or home garden settings, but may reach heights of up to 100' in the wild. Also similar to willows, willow oak has thick, fibrous root masses, which are tolerant of wet and flooded soil, allowing willow oak to thrive near bodies of water. As an oak tree, Quercus phellos also produces acorns, but its rounded acorns are smaller than other species and their bowl-like caps may cover over half of the acorn nut itself.

Willow oak is typically planted for shade or ornamental purposes, but can also work great for mitigation or rehabilitation purposes. Willow oak's medium to large, dense canopy makes for a great shade selection for large yards until leaves begin to turn yellow and dull browns in the fall. Willow oak acorns are ecologically valuable to a large number of species, including black bear, white-tailed deer, and a number of other smaller mammals, as well as songbirds, and game birds like wild turkey, quail, and ducks.

In addition to acorn value, many Quercus species are regarded as important keystone plants for their support of larval butterflies and moths, and Quercus phellos is no different; willow oak is a host to the caterpillars of several species of duskywing moth and hairstreak butterfly.

Straight Species, Native to U.S., Native to Maryland, and Native to Eastern Shore
Mature Tree Height: Large: over 30 feet
Sun (6+ hours) and Part Shade/Sun (4-6 hours of sun)
Soil Moisture: Wide Tolerance and Well-drained
Soil Type: Wide Tolerance
Bloom Time: Spring
Flower Color: Yellow and Green
Foliage Color: Green
Features: Attracts Birds, Attracts Butterflies, Attracts Pollinators, Attracts Wildlife, Host Plant for Butterflies or Moths, Keystone Plant, and Erosion Control
Tolerances: Black Walnut Tolerant, Clay Soil Tolerant, Deer Tolerant, Flood Tolerant, Salt Tolerant, and Wet Soil Tolerant
Garden Type: Meadow, Rain Garden, Wetland Restoration, Specimen Tree, and Shade Tree

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From the Maryland Department of Natural Resources:

"We launched Marylanders Plant Trees in 2009 to encourage citizens and organizations to partner with the State to plant new trees. Today, citizens can still take advantage of our coupon program to receive $25 off the purchase of a native tree at 86 participating nurseries across the State. The State cost of $20 per coupon is funded through a settlement from a major power generator for Clean Air Act violations, in partnership with the Office of the Attorney General, and Maryland’s participating tree vendors are generously absorbing the remaining $5.

Trees must be planted in the state of Maryland to qualify for $25 off coupon.
Wholesale customers do not qualify.