There are many different oak trees native to America, but for hot, dry areas, the top choice is the Shumard Red Oak. This beautiful tree is an ideal shade tree for a larger space, especially in areas with hot, dry summers. It is such a beautiful tree though, with dramatic red fall coloring, and so adaptable, that it is a top choice almost anywhere a long-lived and reliable tree is needed.
The Shumard Red Oak grows quickly into a large tree, reaching 40 or 60 feet in height, or even more, and with a spread of 30 to 40 feet. Young trees have an upright, pyramidal form, but as they mature the crown spreads, to become broad and rounded in older trees. The thick trunk and sturdy limbs project an image of stability and durability, and this long-lived tree easily lives for 200 or 300 years, and 500 is not impossible.
The Shumard Red Oak has large leaves that are 6 to 8 inches long, and deeply lobed with pointed ends, in a classic ‘oak-leaf’ form. There are usually 7 lobes in each leaf, deeply separated from each other, and the leaf is leathery and a glossy deep green. The leaves stay green well into fall, but then turn rich shades of crimson and deep red, making a spectacular picture when most other trees have already lost their leaves. Fall color is good even in warmer areas where most other fall trees do not color well, due to the warm nights. You will extend the colorful fall season by planting a tree like this in your garden. The bark on young trees and smaller limbs is smooth, and bright gray. Older limbs and the trunk become dark gray, with deep furrows and grooves, and the trunk is sometimes decorated with white patches.
Growing Shumard Red Oak Trees
Plant the Shumard Red Oak as a specimen or shade tree on a large lawn. The spreading limbs create a broad area of shade, ideal for resting or a family party. Allow enough room when planting for the mature growth of this tree. Plant at least 15 to 20 feet from all buildings, and well inside your property line. Allow plenty of room between other trees too. For an avenue or boundary marker, space trees 30 feet or more apart. This tree is an ideal choice to enrich an existing woodland area. It is a native tree, and it tolerates some shade, so it will grow up well among larger trees.
Planting and Initial Care
Choose a sunny spot for your Shumard Red Oak. Young trees will tolerate partial shade if they will reach the sun as they mature. This tree will grow on almost any kind of soil. It grows on both acidic and alkaline soils, and in moist soils and dry ones too. Once established this tree is very drought resistant, making it ideal for states with hot and dry summers. It also tolerates several weeks of flooding, so it is a good choice along a river’s edge. It is hardy from zone 5 to 9, so it will grow almost anywhere.
When the tree is mature it will begin to flower and fruit. The flowers are inconspicuous, small and greenish-yellow, arranged in clusters of hanging threads called catkins. These are about 6 inches long. The wind carries pollen from one tree to another. After flowering acorns begin to develop, and these can take 1½ to 3 years to mature. At first they are small and green, but once mature they are about 1 inch across, soft brown in color, and carried in a small, knobby cup. Trees can carry large crops of acorns, which are a valuable source of food for songbirds, wild turkey, and many animals too. Your tree will produce the heaviest crop of acorns if it is near other trees of the same or a closely related species.
History and Origins of the Bur Oak Tree
The Shumard Oak, Quercus shumardii, is native to southern states, from the Atlantic Ocean across to Texas. It grows north into Michigan and New York state, and even into southern Canada. It is part of the group of trees called ‘red oaks’, and it is a larger and faster-growing close relative of the Texas oak, Quercus texana. Our trees are produced from seed. Only the sturdiest and most attractive trees are used as seed sources, and it takes several years to produce a strong sapling tree. The Shumard Oak is difficult to transplant, so our trees are grown in containers for their whole lives, until you plant it. Choose your planting spot carefully, as you will find it hard to move your tree successfully once it has become established. This valuable native tree is not widely available, and we know that discerning tree-lovers will soon take our entire stock. So order now, and plant an oak tree for the future, that you will also enjoy from day one.