Common Names: Shingle Oak, Laurel Oak, Small-Leaved Oak, Jack Oak
This tree is not easily recognized as an oak due to an atypical, unlobed leaf. It is not used as commonly as other oak species, but would be valuable as a parkway tree. Size: >40ft; Mature height 50-50ft; mature width: 50-60ft (Morton Arboretum, 2018).
Early settlers used this tree to make shingles, leading to the common name – Shingle Oak. The species name, Imbricaria, is derived from the Latin word ‘imbricatus’, which means overlapping (University of Kentucky, 2018).
The leaves of the Shingle Oak are distinct from other oak species. This tree will produce leaves similar in shape to the willow, with a 2.5-6in long blade from 1-3in in width with a small bristle on the tip (University of Kentucky, 2018). The surface of the leaf is smooth and glossy on the upper surface with a more pale and fuzzy texture on the lower surface, fixed to the twig with a 1.5 inch petiole in an alternate arrangement (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 2017). During the summer, this tree produces a dense green crown (Gilman, 2006), which yields to a russet-red coloration in autumn (University of Kentucky, 2018). A deciduous tree, after the leaves die off in the fall, a significant amount remains attached to the twigs through the winter (Brand, 2015).
Flowers and Fruit
The flowering habit of this species begins in late spring, and persists from April through May (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2018). A monoecious species, the female tree arranges its flowers in spikes, while the male tree produces yellow-green catkins, which hang pendulously from twigs (University of Kentucky, 2018). Although the occasional insect assists, this species relies mostly on the wind for pollination (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 2017). Once the flowers are pollinated, the petals are known to fall into rather messy piles on the ground (Brand, 2015). Fertilized flowers then set about a two-year long process of developing the acorns (Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 2018), which reach maturity at a size of about 5/8 inch long and are covered with reddish-brown scales (University of Kentucky, 2018).
Bark, Branches and Wood
As the tree grows, thick branches have a habit of sagging down. Although healthy branches are usually at little risk of breakage, they may require pruning if they interfere with human activity if located near walkways, driveways, or parking spaces (Gilman, 2006). The bark of this species remains a light grey color throughout its lifetime, however the smooth texture of a young tree’s bark will be succeeded by a shallow, furrowed texture as it matures (Morton Arboretum, 2018). Oak species are well known for thick, dense wood, and the Shingle Oak is no exception (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 2017). Being a member of the ‘Red’ oak family, this species produces wood with a distinct red-orange coloration (Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 2018).
A young Shingle Oak tends to grow in a pointed, pyramidal shape as it develops (Vogt, 2015), but the large maturing branches begin to sag under the weight of the dense wood as the tree gets older, transforming this tree’s shape into the rather broad and wild-spreading shape common among other species of oak (University of Kentucky, 2018).
The Shingle Oak is common in the central and eastern United States, ranging from Pennsylvania to Alabama, and even as far west as some parts of Kansas. It seems to do particularly well in the Ohio River Valley, as noted by a significantly increased regional population density (Swink, 1994). This species has a broad temperature tolerance, and can be found in zones 3 to 9 (Iowa State University, 2018). It prefers the light of full sun, and grows vigorously in moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soils (Morton Arboretum, 2018), but can do well in a pH range from 5.0-7.5 (Michigan State University, 2018). These specifications make it particularly well suited to biomes including: bottomland forests, lowlands, upland deciduous forest, prairies, and edge habitats (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 2017).
The Shingle Oak propagates best by seed (Brand, 2015). In a natural setting, the Blue Jay is a notable aid to the distribution of the species, often carrying the oak’s acorns up to a mile from the tree, where it stores the seed in loose patches of grassy earth with few trees around. Many of the seeds germinate here, and young trees benefit from these typically solitary conditions (Missouri Department of Conservation, 2018). When planted intentionally for human purposes, it is known to be a successful transplant (Morton Arboretum, 2018), but it requires, however, a lengthy recovery period. It is best transplanted in the spring (Michigan State University, 2018).
Like other members of its family, the Shingle Oak is best pruned during the dormant season to avoid attracting insects that may harbor Oak Wilt disease (Morton Arboretum, 2018). Yearly pruning is recommended to help the tree develop its structure and train it’s growth habits for human environments (Gilman, 2006). The tree readily recovers from regular pruning, and can be hedged if desired (University of Kentucky, 2018).
Pests and Disease
The Shingle Oak faces a slew of biological entities. Of the microbial variety, this tree is a target for Anthracnose species, galls, wilt, rust, canker and mildew (Michigan State University, 2018), although other diseases such as oak leaf blister, bacterial leaf scorch and leaf spots from Tubakia species are a common, but mainly aesthetic issues (University of Illinois Extension, 2018). Insects can include Two-Lined Chestnut Borer, various gall-causing mites (Morton Arboretum, 2018), Oak Slug Caterpillar and Leaf Miner (Gilman, 2006).
This tree has a notable sensitivity to applications of dicamba or 2,4-D, which may cause new leaves and shoots to develop unattractive deformities. Leaf tatter can be elicited from exposure to the chloroacetanilide class of herbicides, a trait it shares with other oak species (University of Illinois Extension, 2018).
Common uses by humans for this species is for its shade benefits along walkways and boulevards (Morton Arboretum, 2018), or in parks (University of Kentucky, 2018). Given an ample 200sqft. of growing area, this tree can also serve well in a parking lot island (Gilman, 2006), largely due to its ability to quickly naturalize (Brand, 2015). In an industrial setting, this tree’s strong and weather-resistant wood is used to produce shingles and other wooden construction materials (Illinois Department of Natural Resources, 2017).
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