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Tree of the Week • Willow Oak

"Willow oak acorns are a top food preference for whitetail deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, quail and some songbirds."

Willow Oak

Quercus phellos

A handsome oak with willow-like leaves. Foliage is light to bright green in summer and yellow, yellow-brown and russet in fall. Relatively fast-growing, it tolerates poorly drained soil. Prefers acid soil and full sun. Grows to 40′-60′ with a 35′ spread. (Zones 5-9)

Hardiness Zones

The potted willow oak can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 5–9. View Map

Tree Type

This is a shade tree, featuring a spreading canopy capable of blocking sunlight.

Mature Size

The willow oak grows to a height of 40–60′ and a spread of 30–40′ at maturity.

Growth Speed Medium

Growth Rate

This tree grows at a medium rate, with height increases of 13–24″ per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The willow oak grows in in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained, wet and clay soils.


This tree:

  • Provides great color, with leaves starting out bright green in the spring, shifting to a deeper summertime green, and then turning to fall shades of yellow bronze-orange, yellow-brown and russet-red.
  • Features spear-shaped leaves that are 2–5″ long , each with a tiny bristle at the tip.
  • Yields acorns that are round and up to ½” long with a thin saucer-like cap.
  • Grows in a pyramidal shape in its youth then an oblong-oval to rounded shape at maturity.
  • Tolerates poorly drained soil.
  • Transplants more easily than most oaks.

Wildlife Value

Willow oak acorns are a top food preference for whitetail deer, squirrels, wild turkeys, quail and some songbirds. Wood ducks and mallards also eat the acorns when stands of these trees are flooded.


The first scientific observation regarding this tree was made in 1723. The wood has been used since pioneering days for newel posts, pulpits, pews, bar tops, wagon axles, stairs, railing, balustrades, bedsteads and flour barrels.


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