Water Oak

Quercus nigra

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



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


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:

Unknown - Tell us

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


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

Baker, Louisiana

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Metairie, Louisiana (2 reports)

New Orleans, Louisiana (2 reports)

Vacherie, Louisiana

Florence, Mississippi

Saucier, Mississippi

Waynesboro, Mississippi

Rogersville, Missouri

Charlotte, North Carolina

Wilmington, North Carolina

Oologah, Oklahoma

Christiana, Tennessee

Dickson, Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee

Memphis, Tennessee

Brazoria, Texas

Conroe, Texas

Houston, Texas

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jun 29, 2016, maulable from New Orleans, LA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Water oaks are among the shortest-lived species of oaks. Generally, they begin to decline when they reach 40 to 60 years of age, becoming structurally weakened and highly susceptible to broken branches, hollow trunks, rot and decay. They are especially fragile in conditions of heavy rain and strong winds.

The climate of Louisiana is not suitable to water oaks; the heat and humidity create ideal conditions for fungus diseases, among other ailments. In addition, the heavy clay soil of the region combined with a high water table leads to drainage issues. Most of the water oaks in Louisiana are seedlings that occurred naturally and were not planned or transplanted by people. As a result, many water oaks are located in areas where, as they decline, they pose a threat to structure... read more


On Oct 11, 2015, egallo2 from Baker, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

Call an arborist to cut down a 60 year old tree in my front yard. I complained that the darn tree kept dropping branches and I was afraid someone would get killed. His first comment was, "Bet it's a water oak!"
It was and apparently notorious for dropping branches. It was determined too expensive to remove, so he trimmed out potential problem branches.
I'd been complaining about the tree as long as we've own the house [20 years]. As "fires_in_motion" stated, the green of the mistletoe-laden branches are most apparent in the winter. My neighbor who was one of the original residents in the late 50s told me that the tree was a weed tree that no one bothered to cut down. Now I wish that I had cut down the line of shade trees that had sprouted up along my back fence 20 years ago.... read more


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!


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 ... read more


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 :)


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.


On Feb 10, 2006, sugarweed from Okeechobee, FL (Zone 10a) 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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.