If I were a tree I’d like to be an oak – strong, beautiful and able to weather the elements of time with character. There is a multitude of oak species around the world and here in southern Ontario they can be assigned to one of two groups: red oaks and white oaks.
Species belonging to the red oak group have pointed leaf lobes and their acorns take almost two years to ripen. Red oak and Black oak species commonly found in our watershed belong to this group. In contrast, white oaks have leaves with rounded leaf lobe tips and their acorns take one year to ripen. White oak and Bur oak species belong to this group.
Oaks are slow growing trees that can reach severe old age – up to 600 hundred years for some. (If you’d like to see one just head to our Glen Miller Conservation Area to hug a big old Bur oak growing on the side of the Trent River.) Oaks don’t like to rush into anything – it takes them some 50 years before they are ready to “start a family” and produce acorns. But once they get going, they turn out a crop of acorns in the thousands in cycles of 4 to 10 years. This recurring bumper crop feeds a network of wildlife including bears, flying squirrels, wild turkeys, and once upon a time the prolific but now extinct passenger pigeons.
And one more thing – make sure you don’t mistake small delicate swellings on leaves and twigs for acorns! These are oak galls induced by parasitic wasps that lay eggs on the leaves causing the plant tissue to swell around it. Galls are quite harmless.
If you want to grow oaks keep the following site conditions in mind: White oak grows well in deep, well drained loam soils, where as the Bur oak is more adaptable thriving in dry to moist soils in sand or clay, even shallow soils over limestone. Red oak prefers deep sandy loams tolerating dry conditions. Both Red oak and Bur oak trees are tolerant of urban conditions.
We have 3 species of oak plus another 20 other species of tree seedlings to choose from, but place your order early to get the best selection! You can order on-line using our new order form http://orders.ltc.on.ca/treeform/tree_form.php , or just give Ewa a call at 613-394-3915 ext 252 to choose your favourite trees. For all the details please see our website: http://www.ltc.on.ca/stewardship/tssp/