oak grows naturally along the borders of swamps and streams
and on rich bottomlands from the Coastal Plain into the foothills
of the mountains. It often is planted along streets and in parks
as a shade tree.
Water oak leaves are small (2 to 4 inches long) and are considerably
broader at the tip than at the base. Leaves vary in shape but
usually show three indistinct lobes. They are deciduous, but
they remain on the tree into early winter.
The acorn is small (usually 1/2 inch or less long) and almost
black. The bark, at first, is smooth and brown but becomes gray-black
with rough scaly ridges with age.
The water oak can be most readily distinguished from the willow
oak -- a close but longer-lived relative -- by the differences
in the shapes and sizes of their leaves.
On good sites, the tree has a slender, straight trunk and reaches
a height of 50 to 80 feet or more with a diameter of 2 to 3
feet. Water oak is easily damaged or killed by fire.
The wood is not considered good for finished lumber, because
it cracks and splits excessively when drying. However, it is
used for rough construction lumber and uses such as support
beams, where strength is most important.