The pin oak tree typically grows on sites where the soil is quite wet during certain times of the year. It is one of many species of oak, including some that are large trees and some that only grow to shrub-sized plants. The pin oak's natural range covers a considerable portion of the northeastern part of the United States.
The pin oak tree is a tree in the so-called red oak group of oak trees. Dendrologists--specialists who study trees, shrubs and vines--divide oak trees into two major groups. One group is the white oak group; the other is the red oak group. One of the most obvious differences between the two groups is a characteristic of the leaves. Many oak trees have fairly radically curving edges to their leaves. The part of the leaf curvature that juts out and forms a sort of peninsula is called a lobe; the inward-curved counterpart is called a sinus. Trees in the red oak group have very sharply pointed tips to the leaf lobes called bristle tips. In contrast, oak trees in the white oak group have rounded lobes without the pointed bristle tips. The leaves of the pin oak tree are the sharply bristle-tipped kind.
Pin oak trees are flowering plants, a fact that comes as a surprise to some people. This is largely because the pin oak's flowers are not showy like those of the dogwood tree or ornamental apple trees, for example. The pin oak, as with any flowering plant, has both male and female flowers. The male flowers occur in somewhat straggly, dangling strands and they release pollen that is carried by the wind to the female flowers. Pollination, of course, is what leads to the female flowers eventually developing into the ripening fruit.
The seed or fruit of an oak tree is the familiar acorn. Although acorns from the many varieties of oaks share similar basic characteristics, there are some differences in the details. Acorns feature a cup with a central stem where the acorn attaches to the tree's twig. Cradled within the cup is the acorn nut itself. The pin oak acorn's cup has scales that overlap in a way similar to that of shingles on a roof. The pin oak acorn's scales tend to be tightly pressed to the contour of the acorn's cup. This is not true of all oak trees' acorns; some oak species have acorns with warty scales or with very open cup scales that are curled back like old roof shingles that have been blown up in a windstorm.
Twigs and Branches
The pin oak may owe its name to a characteristic of the small branches. As the pin oak tree grows and matures, the smaller branches tend to take on a short, pinlike configuration that is apparent in the tree's overall form. This feature is most evident in the leafless season.
The bark of pin oak trees tends to be relatively tightly formed to the trunk. This is in contrast to the bark of a tree like the white oak, for example. The white oak tends to have somewhat papery or scaly, looser bark compared to the pin oak.
- Photo Credit oak image by Marek Kosmal from Fotolia.com
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