Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Bur Oak, Burr Oak, Mossycup Oak
Quercus macrocarpa

Family: Fagaceae (fag-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Quercus (KWER-kus) (Info)
Species: macrocarpa (ma-kro-KAR-pa) (Info)

Synonym:Quercus macrocarpa var. macrocarpa
Synonym:Quercus mandanensis
Synonym:Quercus macrocarpa var. oliviformis
Synonym:Quercus macrocarpa var. olivaeformis

8 vendors have this plant for sale.

13 members have or want this plant for trade.


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed; direct sow after last frost
From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel

Seed Collecting:
Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

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9 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Rickwebb On Nov 10, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

A wonderful, beautiful large tree, common in the Midwest USA in oak-hickory forest, savannah, and floodplains. It has a good coarse and macho texture. Thick, furrowed brown bark is resistant to prairie fires. Very adaptable to many soils, acid or alkaline. offered in containers at native plant nurseries and some large, diverse, conventional nurseries will grow some despite it developing a large taproot.

Positive MTVineman On Jun 4, 2010, MTVineman from Helena, MT (Zone 5a) wrote:

Just brought back around 10 little Burr Oaks from Minnesota to my home here in Helena, Montana. There are already others growing here and they are doing exceptionally well. I have my little ones in pots right now but am planning on planting them in the ground asap just to get the roots established at least. They will be in a nice, protected spot and I suspect they will do excellent here. If they can grow to the size they do in Pope County, Minnesota they will certainly do fine here too. I think our zones are the same. We are a lot higher in altitude but I'm not sure that will make much of a difference. I can make them happy and that's all that counts, eh? I am planting native Minnesota Grapevines and Jack In The Pulpits around and under them as well that I also brought back from MN. Also some weird vines I have never seen. Looks like a Codonopsis maybe. We'll see. Wish me luck!

Positive braun06 On Mar 16, 2007, braun06 from Peoria Heights, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

I planted a Bur Oak in my yard over 4 summers ago and it has done really great. Last year it even grew 2.5'. All I did was fertilize it and no extra water was given outside the rain. That has me a bit perplexed as I had not counted on it outpacing my Swamp White Oak in yearly growth. It gets full sun and has the typical very corky stems of a young healthy Bur Oak. I think regarding the large sized leaves found on the tree in the forest preserve, that has to do with the amount of sunlight it gets. Mine had big leaves after being grown in container fields but the next season the leaves were normal size when having little competition for sunlight. The extreme corkiness and growth are what are unusual. No disease that has attacked many other plants in my yard has ever hurt this tree. I wonder why my oak is doing so much differently versus others in the area. I have to see how long it keeps growing like a madman.

Positive ViburnumValley On Jan 1, 2007, ViburnumValley from Scott County, KY (Zone 5b) wrote:

If forced to choose one tree to plant, of all the shade trees, I believe it would have to be the bur oak...

For genetics (it ranges from Manitoba, following the Great Lakes over to Nova Scotia, then spreading west and south through the Midwestern states down to the Gulf Coast in Texas); it is truly a cosmopolitan species, growing in almost all soils and moisture regimes.

For longevity and massive size (living 500+ years if left alone, 75-100 tall and usually wider than high); it is a giant and a patriarch of woodland and prairie. The national champion resides not far from me, in Bourbon County KY.

For character (the largest leaves and seeds among native oaks, with deeply ridged and furrowed bark); its muted fall colors detract nothing from the boldness of its imposing broad-spreading form.

For utility (casting voluminous shade and creating a wealth of mast); its acorns feed many an industrious squirrel and amuse, as weaponry, children of all ages.

For tenacity (whether the bark is chewed off by livestock and mowers, or the root system is suffocated by parking structures and highways); it takes a long time to succumb to human-imposed indignities.

For humility (prodigiously difficult to transplant, slow to gain height and head, certainly not commercially desirable); if growing trees was meant to be easy, there wouldnt be a need for the nursery industry and landscape profession.

For nostalgia (there may be taller individuals of other species, but images of the bur oak arise when thinking of impressive specimen trees); among midwesterners, it is the tree many of us grew up playing on and under.

For posterity (unlike lollipop consumer-savvy multi-marketed Xeroxed plastic look-alike clones); a bur oak is one of a kind. It is the tree we plant for our childrens grandchildren: a tree of, and for, generations.

The grand old individuals are slowly passing on, the native haunts are gradually disappearing to development, and it is not a species that will ever frequent your neighborhood garden center. Find that place in your community for a bur oak. The future will thank you.

Positive Cuda On Dec 14, 2006, Cuda from San Antonio, TX wrote:

I have two Bur Oaks in my front yard in San Antonio, TX. Both are fully mature, one about 25 years old, the other about 21-22.

These are beautiful trees with only four inherent drawbacks: 1) Lots of large leaves that shed very slowly over a 6 to 8 week period (good for the compost pile but weekly cleanup is required); 2) Lots of dense shade under the trees which makes growing lawns and underplantings a challenge (the shade is welcome in the summer heat); 3) Prolific producers of very large acorns you can twist an ankle on (good conversation pieces while the victim is lying on the ground and very pretty on the tree); 4) They drop a lot of small branches in the 1/4" to 1" diameter category (just mulch them up with the lawn mower).

I've especially had a problem over the past few years with aphids that seem to love the trees. However, this year I used Bexar Advanced Tree & Insect Control, a systemic treatment applied around the base of the tree near the trunk. I used this on one of the trees in May of this year and it works wonderfully. Kind of expensive at about $18 a quart at WalMart and each tree requires two quarts (its a concentrate). But it was worth it. The treated tree, already infested when it was applied, mostly cleared up and was noticeably greener than the untreated tree. The treatment should be applied annually so I think I'll spring for the $72 and treat both trees in early spring before they leaf.

Even though this is a positive comment, it sounds rather negative. Even with the drawbacks mentioned above, I think Bur Oaks are wonderful additions to any yard capable of handling a large tree. I love mine, would plant them again knowing what I now know and would recommend them to others.

The bark on these trees is grayish-brown, very rugged and somewhat spongy to the touch. This rugged quality adds visual interest in the winter when the trees are bare. The limbs of the Bur Oak are more upright than the more familiar Live Oak. My two trees are on a 61 foot wide lot and don't crowd each other or overhang the neighbors property.

The shade provided by these trees in the summer here in San Antonio where temperatures range between 95 and 100 for almost three months each year is welcome even with the difficulty of gardening beneath. Common St. Augustine grass does fairly well under the trees although not as lush as that grown in full sunlight. Algerian Ivy does well as well as asiatic jasmine, boxwood and a variety of lily we got somewhere. This past spring and summer I planted petunias under one of the trees and it did very well.

Positive IrisLover79 On Sep 11, 2006, IrisLover79 from Westchester, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

I found one of these trees growing in my local forest preserve. What's unusual about it, though, is it wasn't very tall or round, but the leaves on it were HUGE! Each leaf was over a foot long! But the trunk was so skinny! I was doing a report on leaves in 8th grade and took one of these huge leaves to my teacher. She asked me to get her a few more and she laminated them. I don't know if the specimen I found is a freak or what!


Positive Malus2006 On Mar 13, 2006, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

This tree can make unusual shapes over time. One tree at my house has lost almost all of its branches on one side and only grows from the other side. Another has leaned over the roof to the west as it struggles to escape a larger (red?) oak. It is more brittle than other trees in my yard, dropping lots of branchlets. But it is unusual and may hawks from a earlier era when it was the only true Savannah tree compare to acadia of Africa. It is fire resistant, having thick bark and a deep taproot that gets water, even in droughts. Its tough leaves makes it harder for animals to graze on, so it is not the first choice for animals to graze on. Also there may had been a subspecies that is more like a dwarf tree or a shrub that resists fires and forms hummocks. I read once in a magnizine that someone has a interest into this form.

I once saw one growing in Scenic State Park in far north Minnesota in poor acidic thin soil that have some sands from eskers. It was rather small and slow growing. Also I heard they grow as far north as Winnipeg, Canada. They are very common in Coon Rapids - the soil is very deep, measuring in the tens and sometimes hundreds of feet and 70 -80% fine sand. In other locations of the Twin Cities, when glacial till replace the sandy soil (glacial till is when you have every type of soil mixed together like rocks of different size, clay, silt and sandy) White oak are more common. So you can tell what kind of soil there is in the Twin Cities by tell what kind of white oak is grown the most frequent.

Positive pavulon On Aug 28, 2005, pavulon from Medford, WI wrote:

A great tree personally seen growing as far north as Ashland, WI (Lake Superior).

Positive darylmitchell On Jun 7, 2005, darylmitchell from Saskatoon, SK (Zone 3a) wrote:

There are several bur oaks growing in a university research park in my city. They are attractive, slow-growing and long-lived. With their deep tap roots they can withstand drought conditions once established. One thing to remember is to give them sufficient space; they can grow nearly as wide as they are tall.

Neutral smiln32 On Dec 6, 2004, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

The Bur Oak is very tolerant of harsh climates. It can handle dry conditions and poor soils. It is a large tree - reaching up to 80' when mature. Foliage is a deep green in summer, but not especially attractive in autumn. Makes a nice shade tree, but plantings underneath require extra care.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Carlsbad, California
Delta, Colorado
Pensacola, Florida
Chicago, Illinois
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Hampton, Illinois
Hanna City, Illinois
Urbana, Illinois
Westchester, Illinois
Indianapolis, Indiana
Iowa City, Iowa
Kingman, Kansas
Clermont, Kentucky
Frankfort, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky (2 reports)
Nicholasville, Kentucky
Paris, Kentucky
Versailles, Kentucky
Natchitoches, Louisiana
Halifax, Massachusetts
Harper Woods, Michigan
Royal Oak, Michigan
Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Saint Cloud, Minnesota
Saint Louis, Missouri
Waverly, Missouri
Helena, Montana
Lincoln, Nebraska
Belfield, North Dakota
Cincinnati, Ohio
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Austin, Texas (2 reports)
Dallas, Texas
De Leon, Texas
Georgetown, Texas
Hunt, Texas
Kerrville, Texas
Manchaca, Texas
Mc Kinney, Texas
Moody, Texas
San Angelo, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Waxahachie, Texas
Willis, Texas
Appleton, Wisconsin
Cambridge, Wisconsin
Mc Farland, Wisconsin

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