Mariton: Oak Bark

February 23, 2020

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The dominant oak species at Mariton are White Oak (Quercus alba), Red Oak (Q. rubra), Black Oak (Q. velutina), and Chestnut Oak (Q. prinus).  I wrote about the Chestnut Oak bark in Chunky Bark.

White Oak

The texture of White Oak bark is what I would call lots of thin flaky scales.  The scales don’t flake off as easily as they would seem.  It is one of the lightest colored barks, which catches my eye in the forest.  That along with the texture makes this tree very easy to identify.

Black Oak

Black Oak is easy for me to recognize, but tough to describe and tough for people to learn.  Contrary to the White Oak, Black Oak is one of the darkest trees in the forest.  The bark is dark gray.  It has scales, but they look thicker, rougher and tougher than the scales of White Oak.

Red Oak

I absolutely love the look of Red Oak bark.  Dr. Sakai said to think of someone’s ski tracks in fresh powder snow.  I told my buddy, Jim (who is a skier), that and he laughed and saw it immediately.  When we walk through the woods he loves to point out red oaks.  Red Oak has smooth shiny plates, with rough fissures between the plates.  The shiniest smoothest sections are on the younger sections of the tree.  So, on old trees like the one in the picture, look high up on the tree.

The oaks become large trees.  In the forest they have straight trunks.  If they are planted in a yard or field, they often branch off ten to twenty feet up and then have wide spreading crowns.