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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Swamp Chestnut Oak

Swamp Chestnut Oak

(Quercus michauxii Nutt.)


Swamp chestnut oak also is known as basket oak or cow oak. This tree is most abundant in the bottomlands of the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. Although it is widely found on the best, well-drained, loamy, first bottom ridges, it is found principally on well-drained, silty clay and loamy terraces and on alluvial sites in the bottomlands of both large and small streams.

Swamp chestnut oak leaves are roughly oval, 6 to 8 inches long; 3 to 5 inches wide. When new they usually are coated on the underside with thick silvery white fuzz. Leaf margins are coarsely toothed.

The acorn is 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, ovoid and 1/3 -covered by a thick cup that has rough, wedge-shaped scales. The bark is a very light gray; on the upper stems and limbs of old trees, it is broken into broad flakes or divided into strips.

The tree usually grows to 60 to 80 feet tall and to 2 to 3 feet in diameter. The trunk often is free of branches for 50 to 60 feet. Stout branches grow upward at sharp angles to form a round-topped crown.

Swamp chestnut oak wood is hard, tough, very strong and heavy. Its other name, "basket oak," refers to the long, thin strips of wood that are split from this tree and used to make baskets. Swamp chestnut oak also is used for barrels, construction, flooring and tools and as white oak lumber. Its tendency to both warp and crack makes it very difficult to kiln-dry.

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