Swamp Chestnut Oak (Basket Oak)

Quercus michauxii
Fagaceae (oaks)

A medium to large tree with a wide, rounded crown and bark resembling that of white oak.

Leaves alternate, simple, 4–8 inches long, broadest above the middle, margin with large, rounded or sometimes sharp teeth; tip pointed. Upper surface dark green, shiny, smooth; lower surface whitish, velvety; leaf stalk ¾ inch long. Leaves turn reddish- or yellowish-brown in fall.

Bark light gray or tan, with scaly plates on mature trees; inner bark reddish.

Twigs moderately stout, smooth, reddish-brown.

Flowers April–May, in catkins.

Fruits September–October, acorns solitary or in pairs; brown, shiny, broadest near the base, gradually tapering to a rounded tip, large, to 1½ inches long; cup covering a third to a half of the nut, bowl-shaped with matted silky hair, scales wedge-shaped, hard, stout, hairy, attached only at the base and overlapping, giving a somewhat fringed appearance. Nut sweet, edible; ripening in autumn of the first year.

Height: to 100 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in moist soils of bottomland forests in large valleys and depressions, bordering slow-moving streams, sloughs and swamps; in Missouri, found principally in the southeastern (Bootheel) lowlands.
Distribution in Missouri: 
A southern species, its range barely extends into Missouri; it is found only in our far southeastern counties.
Human connections: 
This tree is also called basket oak, because the wood splits easily into long strips and is excellent for making baskets. The acorn is one of the sweetest of all the oaks and can be eaten raw. Also called cow oak because cattle particularly relish the nuts, this tree was also used medicinally.
Ecosystem connections: 
Oak acorns fall to the forest floor and contribute to what is called "hard mast," the various nuts that are eaten by wildlife. Hard mast is particularly important as a fall and winter food for many game species, including turkey and deer. Years with less hard mast result in lower wildlife numbers.
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