Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Water Oak
Quercus nigra

Family: Fagaceae (fag-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Quercus (KWER-kus) (Info)
Species: nigra (NY-gruh) (Info)

Synonym:Quercus aquatica

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

4 members have or want this plant for trade.


over 40 ft. (12 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

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:
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring
Mid Spring


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
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; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

Click thumbnail
to view:

By MotherNature4
Thumbnail #1 of Quercus nigra by MotherNature4

By aking1a
Thumbnail #2 of Quercus nigra by aking1a

By Equilibrium
Thumbnail #3 of Quercus nigra by Equilibrium

By escambiaguy
Thumbnail #4 of Quercus nigra by escambiaguy

By escambiaguy
Thumbnail #5 of Quercus nigra by escambiaguy

By Gustichock
Thumbnail #6 of Quercus nigra by Gustichock

By ViburnumValley
Thumbnail #7 of Quercus nigra by ViburnumValley

There are a total of 14 photos.
Click here to view them all!


2 positives
5 neutrals
3 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Improvkeli On Sep 28, 2013, Improvkeli from Mint Hill, NC wrote:

There are water oaks in freedom park, Charlotte NC. One has a 50 foot canopy and has almost a magical feeling about it. My family and I sit at its base and relax. It also has amazing branches growing into on another. Though it may not be great near your living space due to reasons mentioned by others, it's an amazing tree that is so beautiful with its huge canopy, no tree lover can't e attracted to it. All plants have a purpose, it's just appreciating it in a positive setting. The one I mention is very old and looks like something from a fairytale!

Negative Fires_in_motion On Jan 4, 2011, Fires_in_motion from Vacherie, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

There's a reason (actually tons of reasons) why you physically cannot buy this tree at any nursery in south Louisiana, and probably/hopefully most other areas in the hurricane belt. In fact, if you were to go and ask for one, the nursery owner would probably look at you like you had three heads. It's a notoriously short-lived, weak-wooded oak, usually topping out at 40-75 years. They put out an incredible amount of acorns, which sprout up in every potted plant in one's yard, usually due to being planted & forgotten by enterprising squirrels. The problem is that young W.O.'s are so beautiful (having much more elegant "posture" and bark and faster growth than the otherwise far superior Live Oak, Q. virginiana) that unknowledgeable homeowners won't cut them down, even if told bluntly how much of a menace it will soon become. It has been said that around 40% of the trunk is generally hollowed out by termites in mature Water Oaks, and glancing at the gaping trunk holes of many W.O.'s that have been cut down has borne this fact out to my own eyes. Or just go walking in any local swamp or forest and count how many toppled, fungus/termite-infested W.O.'s you see laying around. I'm sure various creepy-crawlies enjoy chilling out under the countless millions of W.O. trunks that lay prone in our nation's forests, but that's cold comfort for humans.

On a slightly more positive note, my parents have been told by their arborist that the specimen in their backyard is the oldest healthy one in the whole N.O. area. It was checked after Katrina and they somehow determined it to be over 100 years old. This of course would make it a mere adolescent Live Oak or Shumard Oak! I keep urging them to get it removed, but it seems to be pretty robust due to being surrounded on all sides by other large trees which block too much wind from hitting it. Plus, based on my knowledge of estimates from my brief experience working for a tree-cutting company, this tree would cost around $5000 to have removed. I get up on the roof and trim back some of the longer limbs with my pole pruner every so often in order to make the canopy more aerodynamic, and I notice lots of dead limb tips (a sure sign of trunk decay much further down the tree). This species is also notorious as mistletoe's favorite hangout (host), at least in this part of the world. Bare W.O.'s in the winter can be instantly identified from afar based merely on their green parasitic buddies, which often can weigh down weak limbs (is there any other kind with this tree?) and cause them to snap off.

There is absolutely no excuse to plant this tree in the South when such wonderful and infinitely durable (against wind, fungi, insects, etc.) alternatives as the Shumard Oak, Live Oak and Willow Oak exist. If you live far enough north to be out of ANY hurricane danger, I'd say this tree would have considered a borderline Neutral rating, but still closer to a Negative, and never under any circumstances a Positive. I wouldn't even want my worst enemy to have one in his or her yard, for the simple fact that when it one day falls over, it may hit one of his or her innocent neighbors.

Oh yeah, to top it all off, the fall foliage is an absolutely hideous yellowish-brown color not unlike that of a baby's vomit, and the leaves persist for quite a while before mercifully falling off.

Positive killdawabbit On Jan 24, 2010, killdawabbit from Christiana, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:

I love Water oaks. Mine have been growing in z6b for over 20 years and have survived well through drought and freezes here. Even the early April 07 freeze; though it was almost in full leaf it recovered very well the following year.
I haven't suffered the problems listed above. I have a few to sprout each year usually but pot most of them up and plant elsewhere on my property in the fall.
Maybe as they age I may eat my words :)

Negative CarterGardener On Nov 20, 2009, CarterGardener from Asheville, NC wrote:

Very fast grower, and very messy. The leaves are lobe shaped and are very difficult to deal with. They get stuck in the tiniest crevices. They almost continuously drop limbs. Not a good specimen for a tidy landscape.

Negative sugarweed On Feb 10, 2006, sugarweed from Jacksonville & Okeechobee, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

This plant has many many acorns and in sandy soil it's likely to set root at the drop of a hat.
I have pulled many that have already sent a footlong taproot down to get started.
I have a minimum of a 55 gal barrel of them every year and when they cover the patio it's like walking on marbles.
It's too big to remove so I'll be living with it.
It does make a 150' canopy of shade.

Neutral winter_unfazed On Apr 3, 2005, winter_unfazed from Rural Webster County, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

This tree grows here in Zone 6b too. My first encounter with it came in fall 2003 (first fall after moving to the country) when I saw a weird leaf rolling on the lawn, very unusually shaped. (Don't have any idea where the tree was that it came from.) I picked it up and hung it in a groove inside the house, thinking it was a rare and bizarre mutation. And then, ridiculous me, I was looking up something else in a tree field guide months later and came across a picture of a tree with leaves just like that! It was the water oak, Quercus nigra. In 2004, I found a baby water oak tree growing on the edge of the lawn. Oh, that reminds me, I have to dig that up and plant it somewhere else before the landlord starts mowing this spring.

Neutral escambiaguy On Mar 24, 2005, escambiaguy from Atmore, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:

Water oak performs best in a forest setting, where it can develop a tall straight trunk and compact crown. When they grow out in the open, they tend to have large lower limbs that are prone to breaking under their weight. For this reason, I say Water oak doesn't make a good yard or street tree.

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

The leaves are very distinctive on this tree and do not resemble "normal" oak leaves. These are thinner at the branch end and are wider at the outer edges. Leaves are dark green in summer and remain that way until winter when they turn brown (and often remain until spring).

This tree does not like urban settings. It has a beautiful rounded form and can reach anywhere from 60 - 100' at maturity. Good soil conditions are needed for proper growth (not too wet, not to dry, medium coarse soil).

Neutral aking1a On Aug 7, 2004, aking1a from Baton Rouge, LA (Zone 8b) wrote:

In drought periods, the tree tends to become brittle and can drop large limbs easily. It does grow fast and it can be quite large. I have several that are near 60 years old.

Neutral dogbane On Dec 11, 2003, dogbane from New Orleans, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

A relatively fast growing oak. Good shade tree and wildlife habitat. Tends to be brittle and therefore drops many twigs and small branches. Semi-evergreen; brown fall/winter foliage, if any. Good choice for open areas of low maintenance where a somewhat fast growing, large tree is needed. Native of the US Gulf and Atlantic coasts and the Lower Mississippi River Valley.


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

Atmore, Alabama
Dothan, Alabama
Bartow, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Zephyrhills, Florida
West Point, Georgia
Benton, Kentucky
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Metairie, Louisiana (2 reports)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Vacherie, Louisiana
Florence, Mississippi
Saucier, Mississippi
Waynesboro, Mississippi
Rogersville, Missouri
Charlotte, North Carolina
Oologah, Oklahoma
Christiana, Tennessee
Dickson, Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee
Brazoria, Texas
Conroe, Texas
Houston, Texas

We recommend Firefox
Overwhelmed? There's a lot to see here. Try starting at our homepage.

[ Home | About | Advertise | Media Kit | Mission | Featured Companies | Submit an Article | Terms of Use | Tour | Rules | Privacy Policy | Contact Us ]

Back to the top

Copyright © 2000-2015 Dave's Garden, an Internet Brands company. All Rights Reserved.

Hope for America