Pin Oak

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
The pin oak refers to a red oak (Genus, Quercus; Section, Lobatae) of the Fagaceae Family. Plants of the Fagaceae family are distinguished from otheres by their simple leaves with pinnate venation, monoecious (i.e. hermaphroditic) reprodcutive capacity, and cupule-shaped fruits. The fruit of Quercus palustris is the acorn, roughly 15,000 of which will be produced by any given Pin Oak each year. The pin oak is also deciduous, meaning that it will abscise, or shed, its leaves each fall after dropping its zygote-bearing acorns. Oaks undergo abscission for a number of reasons; the pin oak does so to conserve water and nutrients during the drier seasons. A majority of water and nutrients taken up by the tree's vascular transport tissues are absorbed by the leaves, and the process demands incredible energy expenditure. Relative to other deciduous trees, the pin oak is medium-sized at maturity, reaching a full height of 18–22 meters. The trunk's diameter (base) can reach 1 meter and only rarely exceeds this size. My pin oak measures 22.3 meters in height, placing it among the tallest; trunk diameter is 0.79 meters. Growth proceeds slowly for the first 20 years - around the time acorn production begins - and thereafter accelerates markedly.
Thomas Harrison
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
A straight, undivided trunk (may divide at the apex of the crown). Crown has oblongoid shape. Leaves are pinnatifid (divided into lobes), with 5-7 bristle-tipped lobes.
Date of tree entry: 
22.30 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.79 m

The bark on its lower trunk (pictured above) has a grayish brown coloration, is rough in texture, and slightly ridged. The bark of younger trees (
Twigs & branches
The twigs are slender, smooth, and green to red brown in color. The pin oak has strong apical dominance (having a single erect central trunk with strongly differentiated branching), with the upper branches pointing up, lower branches pointing down, and mid-height branches extending perpendicular to the trunk. It is a poor self pruner, holding its branches longer than most other oaks.
The 10-year-old pin oak will be roughly 8 meters tall and possess a straight, cylindrical trunk with smooth bark. The mature, 40 year-old tree possesses rough bark with its branches arranged in a loose, spreading canopy. The canopy is considered one of its most distinctive features. The uppermost branches are directed upwards, the middle branches extend directly parallel to the ground below, and the lower branches are droopy, bending slightly downwards. Compared to most other oak species which can live for several centuries, pin oak are relatively short-lived reaching a maximum lifespan of 120 years. The pin oak's short lifespan is chalked up to its status as a fast-growing pioneer, or riparian, species. For the average-sized pin oak, leaves range in length from 3 to 6 inches long. They are bristle tipped, deeply lobed (5 to 7 lobes, but most frequently 7, in the Northeast U.S. variety), and possess wide, circular sinuses. The leaves are smaller than in the red oak, and contain much deeper, more fractured lobes. The leaf surface is dark green, and paler on the underside. The bottom of the leaf usually contains tufts of pale hairs in the axils of the veins.
Reproductive Structures
Acorns start out as a small cluster of cells at the tip of the pin oak branch before flowering. A monoecious specimen, the pin oak's twigs will have both male and female flowers. In March and April, provided that weather has been consistently optimal (warm & sunny), some of these cells will swell into a vase-shaped ovary topped by a pistil (looks like a fuzzy, tiny knob) which captures wind-blown pollen. The ovary walls become the acorn upon fertilization, while the flower's petals and sepals fuse into the acorn "cap." Like most monoecious species, pin oaks tend to avoid self-breeding. Pollen and female flowers appear at different times on the same tree, enabling male gametophytes (pollen grains) to travel by wind and catch on the pistil of another tree's flowers. On the same tree, other buds grow to produce male flowers. These are called katkins; they look like a section of grapevine, with the "grapes" being small, spherical yellow buds that release thousands of pollen grains into the wind when they open. Some reach the pistils of developing acorns and polinate them.
The pin oak produces a fruit that is a nut, called an acorn. Composed of a bowl-like structure known as a cupule and a cap sitting atop, acorns almost always contain one seed each - in very rare cases, two, or even three. Development from zygote fertilization to maturity can take anywhere from 8 to 13 months. This broad maturity range is attributed to variations in climate as climate is the most important determinant of flower formation and development. Even within its native range, climate varies dramatically between the northern and southern bounds (Ontario to Georgia). Some research (Sharp and Sprague, 1977) suggests that acorn production (quantity of mature nuts yielded anually) may be an inherent characteristic of the oak, which would explain why the pin oak has such a massive range of acorn production: from 13,300 to 492,000 acorns, per year, per hectacre.
  • Fall: August - October
  • (Extended) Winter: November - May
  • Summer
Natural range of distribution: 
The pink oak's native geographical range spreads from the northeastern United States coast, southward to the Mid Atlantic, as far west as eastern Kansas, and as far south as Georgia. It is also native to the southernmost portion the Canadian province Ontario. The pin oak has been introduced to Australia, where it flourishes across the continent, but particularly in the southern province of Victoria. It has also adapted well to conditions in the Rio de la Plata region of Argentina. Pin oak is a bottomland species, preferring moist, acidic soils. The pin oak is very site-sensitive; on sites which are not acidic, it often exhibits iron chlorosis, which manifests itself in the yellowing of the leaf tissue between the veins. Iron deficiency is due to the low availability of iron in higher pH soils.
Origin, history, and uses: 

Historically, the pin oak’s bark was in high demand among a variety of Native American tribes, who would extract the liquid (via distillation or immersion in boiling water) to make a beverage which was thought to be effective treatment for intestinal pain.

The term pin oak first came into language circa 1805-1815, in Native American circles. It was named thus for its pyramidal manner of growth in its branches and deeply pinnatifid leaves. 


The pin oak’s midsummer iridescent glow, as well as the leaves’ longevity, makes it a hugely popular ornamental display. Despite the wood’s heavy, strong and hard texture, it is usually used for fuel wood, wood pulp, and railroad ties. The wood’s tendency to warp does not make it a good for dimensional lumber. It is highly sought after as nourishment, as well as for shelter, by wood ducks, wild turkey, and white-tail deer.

In its native range, pin oak is the most commonly used landscaping oak along with northern red oak due to its ease of transplant, relatively fast growth, and pollution tolerance.

As stated earlier, the male and female flowers reach maturity at different times of the year. For the male gametophyte, which becomes the catkin--an elongated cluster of single-sex flowers bearing scaly bracts and bereft of petals--at maturity, flowering occurs during the months of April and May. The yellow capsules containing pollen grains, when opened, disseminate the pollen grains to travel by wind to female flowers which can either be on the same tree or further away. Thus begins pollen tube formation, double fertilization, and zygote maturity; the female fruit (the acorn) takes form in the fall months (September–October), appearing alone or in clusters of 2 or 3. Initially, the fruit is bitter to the taste, often striped in appearance, and measures 3/8 - 1/2 inches in length. Only twelve months later will these acorns fully ripen, losing their bitter quality and becoming much more palatable to rodents and birds alike. From early April through October, the pin oak retains its leaves, and its vascular bundles uptake water and other organic nutrients at full capacity. The leaves are shed after October and thus begins the less-active stretch of the tree's annual living cycle. Leafless and conserving stocks of nutrients, the tree hunkers down for the wintry months ahead.
  1. Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture, “Plant Fact Sheet: Pin Oak Quercus palustris (Plant Symbol = QUPA2)”, 5 February 2005. 
  2. “Quercus Palustris,” Wikipedia. 
  3. Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, “Quercus palustris​ Pin Oak Fact Sheet (ST-555)”, Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, October 1994. 
  4. Susan Darley-Hill, W. Carter Johnson, “Acorn dispersal by the blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata​)”, Oecologica, Vol. 50, Issue 2, August 1981, pp. 231-232.
  5. M. Boyer, J. Miller, M. Belanger, E. Hare, “Senescence and spectral reflectance in leaves of northern pin oak (Quercus palustris Muenchh)”, Remote Sensing of Environment, Vol. 25, Issue 1, published June 1988, Revised 3 Dec. 1987, pp. 71-87.
Media and Arts

Freestyle rap performed on Wednesday, 22 April 2015. 

(for maximize your enjoyment, I would like to preface this by saying that I wrote the song to accompany the instrumental-only version of Drake, “Fancy,” Young Money Entertainment, 2010).

She loves me, she loves me not, yeah, she loves me not. (X2)

Oh Quercus, I cant really fight the lust I feel for your pallustris latin aura; 

With all those acorns why you need em-look-just-drop-em (unless my brothers already-caught-em, )

Bryophytes, moss, liverworts, those gymnosperms don’t act the same, 

Rhode Island Des Moine Jackson, dont matter, my rodents out there scouting for that thick wood frame; 

now-that-I-got-you-on-my-claws-just-climbin-up-your-body I feel like I finally made it

quit playin all Deciduous - keep those leaves - i know that you’ve been faaaaaakin’;

winter’s rehab, bones ache, cold sweats-that-suffrin-I-don’t-really need that;

‘cause I know you Monoecious make those acorns in December on your own self- I thought you was my friend!

if you dont, allelic-diversifyin-you-wont be, wishin you had my speedy legs,

spreading them cotelydons with waxy seed coats doesn't buy nobody's bread