8 Typical Types of Oak Trees in Kentucky

One of the best parts about being a gardener in Kentucky is the amazing variety of oak trees that you can choose to grow. Having different sizes, shapes, leaf types and even acorns, oak trees are some of the most varying kind of trees out there. Let’s learn about the different types of oak trees in Kentucky today.

Having both male and female flowers on one tree, the oak is a large deciduous tree that is commonly found across the Northern Hemisphere. These trees are more common to tropical and cool regions, with North America hosting the largest oak population worldwide. The oak tree has distinctive, jagged leaves made of numerous lobes, which shed each year.

Oak trees are vital to the forests of Kentucky. This is because the acorns they produce feed thousands of small animals like squirrel, birds and even white-tailed deer. Moreover, the rough barks of the oak trees are home to many insects and birds like owls.

Kentucky’s year-long climate and distinctive soils come together to create an impressive variety of flowering trees, vegetation, animal life and stunning landscapes that roll on for acres. Since the state used to be a part of the hardwood forest areas that previously covered this country from the western prairies to the Allegheny Mountains, there are many different types of oak trees native to the region, as well as pine and maple.

To be specific, Kentucky has 8 native oak species. Among these, five are members of the red oak group while the rest belong to the white oak family. The weather conditions in Kentucky are ideal for the growth of oak trees. Due to its central US location, Kentucky has a typically mild and moderate temperature throughout the year. it experiences all four seasons distinctly and has a fertile soil which encourages oak growth and proliferation.

Here are the different types of oak trees in Kentucky.

1. Pin Oak (quercus palustris)

Quercus Palustris
Bruce K. Kirchoff Quercus Palustris

The pin oak is a native tree to Kentucky with a pyramid shape that becomes oval as the tree gets older. These trees can reach heights of over 100 feet and have a spread of 40 feet. They produce dark green leaves that are around 5 inches long and have three to five lobes. These leaves only fall in autumn season once the tree reaches maturity. The pin oak has 1/4th inch long acorns.

2. Chestnut Oak (quercus michauxii)

Quercus Michauxii
Bruce K. Kirchoff Quercus Michauxii

Also called the basket oak, the chestnut oak grows the best under a full sun and well-drained soils. This tree reaches heights of 65 to 70 feet and develops a beautiful round canopy after maturity. The chestnut oak has dark yellow-green leaves that are over 8 inches long and coarsely toothed. Its acorns are around an inch long and come in shades of dark brown.

3. Willow Oak (quercus phellos)

Quercus Phellos
Matt Tillett Quercus Phellos

The willow oak’s most outstanding feature are the lust green, lance-shaped leaves that resemble willows, giving the tree its name. These leaves grow about 2 to 5 inches long and transform into a beautiful shade of bronzey red in the fall. The willow oak tree grows to heights of 70 feet and has acorns that are half an inch long. These trees need a full sun and moist soils for best growth.

4. Shingle Oak (quercus imbricaria)

Quercus Imbricaria
Bruce Kirchoff Quercus Imbricaria

The shingle oak is also called the laurel oak. These trees are found all across Kentucky, growing to heights of 60 to 75 feet. They develop oval, gum-drop or round shaped crowns at maturity. The shingle oak has dark green leaves that are around 6 inches long and an inch wide. Its acorns are really small, measuring to less than an inch long and stay on the tree for two years before shedding.

5. Northern Red Oak (quercus rubra)

Quercus Rubra
Rebecca Dellinger-Johnston Quercus Rubra

The Northern red oak is a signature tree of the red oak family. It is a native of North America and found most commonly in the eastern and south eastern regions of the country. This deciduous tree has a straight trunk growing over 95 feet tall. It has plump branches growing at right angles to the tree, creating a rounded head. It has alternate, 5-inch leaves with nine lobes and the acorns are released in early October.

6. Bur Oak (quercus macrocarpa)

Quercus Macrocarpa
Doug McGrady Quercus Macrocarpa

The bur oak are large, stately trees that grow in horse pastures and open old states all across Kentucky. These trees generally acquire heights of 80 feet, but the tallest one in Kentucky is in Bourbon Country and reaches over 95 feet in length. Also called the scrub oak or blue oak, these trees have massive trunks of diameters more than 3 meters. Their leaves are around 6 inches long and have a lobed margin.

7. Chinkapin Oak (quercus muehlenbergii)

Quercus Muehlenbergii
Bruce Kirchoff Quercus Muehlenbergii

With the national champion chinkapin oak tree being over 110 feet tall and boasting a 92 foot spread, these are among the tallest trees in Kentucky. It is a monoecious oak tree with flowers emerging in April and late May. The leaves are typically rounded and its acorns are found on short stalks. These acorns turn a chestnut brown color in the fall.

8. Scarlet Oak (quercus coccinea)

Quercus Coccinea
Dan Keck Quercus Coccinea

The scarlet oak tree is another member of the red oak group. It has lobed leaves and a high ornamental value. This is due to its fine wood that holds a high price in the timber market. Having a brilliant red color in autumn with an open crown and rapid growth, these trees are found in numerous park, streets s and wildlife ranges in Kentucky. They grow to heights of 75 feet and prefer moist to dry soils.