Bur oak is native to Texas and other states throughout the South, Midwest and eastern U.S. It is often found growing adjacent to well-drained riparian areas and upland sites.
Bur oaks are some of the largest deciduous trees in the state. They have been known to reach a height of 150 feet and have heavy spreading limbs and a large crown.
Its bark is usually light gray to reddish-brown and quite thick with vertical fissures and corky scales. This defense makes it very resistant to fire.
Bur oaks have very large, deep green leaves that are simple, alternate, ovate-oblong with five to nine deeply cut and rounded lobes. They are usually 3-6 inches in width and 6-12 inches in length.
The acorns that are produced in the fall can range from 3/4 to 2 inches long with thick, woody cups that encase the nut with a mossy-like appearance.
These oaks produce a very dark or light brown close-grained, very durable wood that is used in many applications. The wood is quite heavy and will weigh almost 50 pounds per board foot. The tree has been commercially propagated since the early 1800s.
Bur oak can hybridize with other oaks. There have been four different hybrid species identified within the U.S.
Bur oaks have recently found their way into urban neighborhoods for landscaping projects providing shade and aesthetics.
Its acorns are relished by squirrels and whitetail deer. The young plants are grazed by many animals and make fair browse for domestic livestock.
Editor’s note: Kent Ferguson, retired rangeland management specialist from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is providing us with plant identification photo stories to help ranchers identify those forbs, forages and species growing in the pastures. Additional photos provided by USDA NRCS.
Bur Oak is excerpted from the December 2018 issue of The Cattleman magazine.
The Cattleman magazine is received monthly by TSCRA members as part of their membership in the organization.
Please take a second to visit our Bull Buyer’s Guide and Ranch Services Guide Advertisers.