The white oak (Quercus alba) is one of our best native trees. (Examples can be found throughout the MN Landscape Arboretum.)
White oak is native from central Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico and will be resilient to climate change. It lives easily 200 years in our climate and has been documented living over 400 years.
Oaks are tops in the ecosystem for providing food for beneficial insects, birds and wildlife. They’re a favorite stop over for migrating birds as they are full of insects (especially little caterpillars) that provide fuel for their journey north, giving the trees added pest control. The acorns in the fall are a boon for all sorts of wildlife, beyond squirrels, blue jays, turkeys and deer.
The trees are spectacular with very strong, wide-spreading branches that create an oval crown. The leaves emerge silvery to pink in the spring and turn beautiful colors from maroon to purplish red in the fall. Oak is officially our national tree.
Alan Branhagen is the director of operations at the MN Landscape Arboretum.