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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Willow Oak

Willow Oak

(Quercus phellos L.)


Willow oak, often called water oak or pin oak, may be found statewide except on higher slopes and in the mountains. It is more commonly found in lowlands and along the borders of rivers and swamps but often grows on rich, sandy uplands. The best quality trees grow on bottomland soils, where they frequently become 80 to 100 feet tall and reach diameters of 3 feet and more. Willow oak is a beautiful and long-lived tree. It is widely planted for roadsides, lawns and parks.

Willow oak is named for its willow-like leaves. The leaves are 2 to 5 inches long, narrow, smoothed-edged and tipped with bristle points. The light yellowish-brown or greenish-brown acorns are small (1 /2-inch long) with a thin, flat, scaly cup.

Willow oak may be almost evergreen in the southernmost portions of its range.

The young bark generally is smooth and reddish brown. As it ages, it becomes almost black and is slightly roughened and divided by narrow ridges. The small branches spread into an attractive crown that is comparatively narrow and often conical with a round-topped head.

The wood is sold as red oak. It is heavy, strong, rather coarse-grained, light brown tinged with red and is not durable when exposed to the weather. Its lumber is used locally for crossties, rough construction where great strength is required and in general construction.

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