I’ve been wanting to do another ‘Five for Friday’ for a few weeks, because I’ve had the perfect topic. As part of our effort to acquaint ourselves with our environment, Ordinary Spouse and I took an oak walk a few weeks ago. Basically, we grabbed two tree guides and tried to identify all of the oaks we could find. The result of this little exercise could have been a ‘Five for Friday’, but I kept missing the Fridays. And it could have been a ‘This Week in the Forest’, but it’s now three weeks after the fact. The leaves are starting to change color (although the oaks are still mostly green), meaning I need to hurry up and get this posted. And so, you get a ‘Five for Sunday’.

Here is what we found…

Red oak (Quercus rubra)

Red OakBristle-pointed leaves, not deeply lobed, 5-9″ in length.

White oak (Quercus alba)

White oak

Leaves with rounded lobes and no bristles, lobes of similar size and shape.

 Chestnut oak (Quercus prinus)

Chestnut oak

Broad, oval-shaped leaves with many shallow lobes.

Scrub oak (Quercus iliicifolia)

Scrub oakAlso known as ‘Bear oak’. Leaves with bristle-pointed lobes. Fuzzy underneath.

Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea)

Scarlet oakDeeply lobed leaves with bristle points.

A couple of comments on our little exercise…

First, we may have actually encountered six different species, but making a positive identification of black oak (Quercus velutina) became a maddening proposition. For starters, it turns out that red, scarlet, and black oaks are closely related. Sometimes hybrids result. The leaves of the scarlet and black oaks look much the same, as well. And in common usage, people seem to use a number of names interchangeably.

We’re hoping that two items will help us with a positive identification. Supposedly, the autumn coloring of scarlet oaks is much brighter than the black oaks, so we’ll be watching for that in a few weeks. And the inner bark of black oaks is yellow. We’ve been doing some bark sampling, and so far we’ve only come up with the scarlet oak. No black oak.

(Ed. note: As of September 26th, we have positively identified at least two black oaks for a grand total of six oak species. This blog post is now officially a ‘Six for Sunday’.)

The other interesting note from our exercise: we found a cottage at Laurelville where all five of these species occur naturally around the parking area. So next time you visit us here, take a look around Danzig.

The next item on our to-do list is a maple walk. We’ll see if that happens this fall or not.