White Oak- Zone 4
Characteristics of the tree
Acorns can be divided into two categories: bitter and sweet. The majority are bitter: if you have ever tasted the red oak acorn, you will know it’s practically inedible.
This is because of its high concentration of tannins. The white oak acorns are sweet acorns, but this does not mean that eating them raw when harvested will be a pure delight! They still contain traces of tannin that makes them bitter without preparation.
The most common way to remove tannins from the acorns is to boil them in water a few times (using fresh water each time) until the water is clear (the tannin dissolves in water). Once the tannins are removed, there are several options – they can be dried, roasted, ground into flour, candied, used as coffee, oiled, used in cake, pies, cookies and so on.
As an endangered species, the white oak (Quercus alba) can be found both in southern Canada, and all the way through to the southern states of the United States of America. It is hardy to zone 4. Sometimes called ‘Stave Oak’, its wood does not rot, and because of this quality was much used in the past as staves for barrels, in ship construction, and to make floorboards. As a result, the tree is now rare to find. A slow-growing tree, it has a long lifespan, living up to 450 years old.
The white oak is self-fertile, with both male and female flowers growing in the same tree. The pollination process is very sensitive to temperature, however, and it is not dependable as an annual crop. Ideally, the weather should be warm for 10 days during flowering and then be followed by cool weather for 13 to 20 days.
The white oak is extremely adaptable in terms of the conditions in which it can grow. With the exception of poorly drained or very dry and shallow soil, it can grow in many different soils. The white oak nut tree is also rare in that it grows equally well in sun or shade.
Due to its high monetary value, many people make timber plantations of white oak as a long-term investment. In our opinion, planting the trees every 5 metres (16 feet) instead of every 10 metres (33 feet) will produce enough timber to harvest half the plantation whilst keeping the rest for wildlife and future nut harvests. By doing this, it is more cost-effective and will make better use of the space.
The white oak acorn is also a favorite of wildlife, so you must be quick to harvest them. Squirrels, mice, chipmunks, deer and blue jays love them and might be faster than you! Some people will often decide to plant white oaks in the aim of helping wildlife, and we fully support this idea! Re-introducing this species in nature is a great gift to our planet.
White Oak grows at a moderate rate and reaches around 25 metres in height, with a spread of 14 metres. This illustration shows a 20-year-old bur oak, that has reached 6m (20 feet) in height.
You should note that this illustration is meant only to give a general indication of what you can expect, and the growth of your tree might look somewhat different. The development of a tree depends on the soil type, irrigation, fertilisation and climatic conditions.
What we show here is based on our observation of the growth of the white oak in zone 4, in rather poor soil. In a colder climate it might be slower, and in richer soil or warmer climates it might be faster.
All our white oak trees are sold bare-root, without pots. They have been cultivated directly in our soil. Bare-root trees must be taken out of the ground and shipped during their period of dormancy, which is why we only ship trees in the spring. A big advantage with these kinds of trees is that they take up very little space, and can therefore be easily shipped by mail all over Canada!
This photograph shows a 1-3-foot oak tree, just like one that you might receive. Depending on the height you choose at the time of purchase, the tree might be somewhat taller (3-5 feet).