Bur Oak

Quercus macrocarpa
Fagaceae (oaks)

A medium to very large tree with a broad, spreading, rounded crown, a massive trunk, and low, large, spreading branches.

Leaves alternate, simple, 6–12 inches long, 3–6 inches wide, spatula-shaped and broadest near the middle; margin with 5–9 lobes, notches shallow on the outer half but deeply cleft near the base, the notch of the two largest lobes almost reaching the central vein; lobe tips rounded; upper surface dark green; lower surface downy and pale.

Bark thick, gray-brown, deeply grooved at maturity, ridges long, flat-topped.

Twigs light brown, hairy, becoming darker and smooth with age; twigs often develop corky ridges after the first year.

Flowers April–May, in catkins.

Fruits September–October, acorns solitary or paired. Nut brown, rounded to broadest near the base, ¾–2 inches long; cup deep, hairy, enclosing ½–¾ of the nut, the scales along the edge producing a fringed or ragged mossy-looking border. Acorns edible, ripening in autumn of the first year.

Height: 85 feet (maximum about 120 feet); spread: 85 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
In the Ozarks, occurs in low woods in valleys or on lower slopes and along streams; in northern Missouri, occurs in upland woods as well as in valleys and in degraded or former savannas. It prefers the floodplains of our major streams but is also one of the few trees to grow on moist prairies and plains. When westering pioneers first encountered the sunny grasslands of the Midwest, the open groves of these massive trees provided them with the most delightful shade they had ever known.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Sometimes called "mossycup oak" for the fringed scales on the edge of the acorn cup. "Bur" also refers to those shaggy fringes. Bur oaks can live for hundreds of years and become giants; many have legendary or historic status. The famous Council Oak at Sioux City, Iowa, was the shade tree under which (according to legend) explorers Lewis and Clark met with a group of Native Americans in 1803; when it was cut in the 1970s, a replacement bur oak was planted soon after to mark the historic spot.
Human connections: 
Donald Culross Peattie commented, "No child who ever played beneath a Bur Oak will forget it." In addition to being a shade and landscaping tree, it is also used for its wood, which is similar to white oak and becomes watertight barrels, flooring, furniture and much more.
Ecosystem connections: 
As with most oaks, the nuts of this species are eaten by many birds and mammals. The larvae of acorn weevils eat acorns, too! If you collect acorns, don't be surprised if a few contain these "grubs." Once the larvae exit the acorn, they burrow into the ground to become skinny-nosed, brown beetles.
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