Nuttall oak (Quercus nuttalli, syn. Quercus texana) is a large oak species native to North America. It is winter hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6B to 8B, and it is especially well adapted to the moist bottomlands of the southern Mississippi Valley and the Gulf Coastal Plain.
Mature nuttall oak trees may reach a height of up to 120 feet, but the species more typically grows to a height of 60 to 80 feet. Its symmetrical, rounded crown generally spreads to about 35 to 50 feet. It grows rapidly and can reach a height of more than 13 feet within five years. Trees reach mature size within 70 years and typically have a life span of more than 100 years.
The tree's leaves are dark green, deeply lobed and 4 to 8 inches long. The foliage turns a deep red color in the fall.
Nuttall oak is also sometimes called red oak, and its timber is often sold commercially under that name.
Because nuttall oak is able to flourish in poorly drained and heavy clay soils, it is a good choice for those areas of the landscape that are too damp for other specimen trees. It is a large tree, however, so it needs plenty of space to spread out. It functions well as a shade tree, and it can also serve as a street tree, although its roots may damage pavement if it's planted next to a sidewalk or driveway.
Nuttall oak also produces a large volume of acorns that fall around the tree, and this characteristic may be a problem if the tree is located near decks, patios, paths or any other place in the landscape where people gather.
Importance to Wildlife
Although nuttall oak's prolific production of acorns can be problematic in the human landscape, it's a definite benefit to wildlife. The acorns are an important food source for squirrels, deer, turkeys, ducks and other animals, and if you'd like to attract these visitors to your property, a nuttall oak can help you do so. If, however, you view deer, squirrels and rodents as undesirable pests, the tree is probably not the best choice for your landscape.