Environment Planet Earth Black Oak, a Common Tree in North America By Steve Nix Steve Nix Writer University of Georgia Steve Nix is a member of the Society of American Foresters and a former forest resources analyst for the state of Alabama. Learn about our editorial process Updated January 29, 2020 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Planet Earth Outdoors Weather Conservation Black oak (Quercus velutina) is a common, medium-sized to large oak of the eastern and midwestern United States. It is sometimes called yellow oak, quercitron, yellowbark oak, or smoothbark oak. It grows best on moist, rich, well-drained soils, but it is often found on poor, dry, sandy or heavy glacial clay hillsides where it seldom lives more than 200 years. Good crops of acorns provide wildlife with food. The wood, commercially valuable for furniture and flooring, is sold as red oak. Black oak is seldom used for landscaping. The Silviculture of Black Oak JeannetteKatzir / Getty Images Black oak acorns are an important food for squirrels, white-tail deer, mice, voles, turkeys, and other birds. In Illinois, fox squirrels have been observed feeding on black oak catkins. Black oak is not extensively planted as an ornamental, but its fall color contributes greatly to the aesthetic value of oak forests. Black Oak Tree Images Willow/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5 The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Fagales > Fagaceae > Quercus velutina. Black oak is also commonly called yellow oak, quercitron, yellowbark oak, or smoothbark oak. The Range of Black Oak US Geological Survey/Wikimedia Commons Black oak is widely distributed from southwestern Maine and western New York to extreme southern Ontario, southeastern Minnesota, and Iowa; south in eastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, central Oklahoma, and eastern Texas; and east to northwestern Florida and Georgia. Black Oak at Virginia Tech Mary Prentice / Getty Images Leaf: Alternate, simple, 4 to 10 inches long, obovate or ovate in shape with five (mostly) to seven bristle-tipped lobes; leaf shape is variable, with sun leaves having deep sinuses and shade leaves having very shallow sinuses, lustrous shiny green above, paler with a scruffy pubescence and axillary tufts below. Twig: Stout and red-brown to gray-green, usually glabrous but rapidly growing twigs may be hairy; buds are very large (1/4 to 1/2 inch long), buff-colored, fuzzy, pointed, and distinctly angular. Fire Effects on Black Oak NirutiStock / Getty Images Black oak is moderately resistant to fire. Small black oaks are easily top-killed by fire but sprout vigorously from the root crown. Larger black oaks can withstand low-severity surface fire because of moderately thick basal bark. They are susceptible to basal wounding.