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When the kids collect leaves for science class in the fall, they won’t choose this tree for their Oak leaf sample. Its foliage looks nothing like a typical Oak leaf. It’s a long oval shape, without the familiar lobes—whether rounded, like White Oak or pointed like Red Oak. But Shingle Oak is every bit as mighty and true an Oak Tree as any other. Growing slowly, steadily, this noble native develops strong branches and a bold, rounded outline. In time, it will grace your backyard or front yard landscape with welcome shade in summer, as well as pleasing golden brown or russet-red foliage in autumn.
Shingle Oak is found in the wild from Nebraska to Arkansas, reaching east to Pennsylvania and Georgia. It grows most abundantly in the Ohio River Valley, though it isn’t a terribly common tree in any part of its range. The world’s tallest specimen grows in the Oho Valley, in Louisville, Kentucky. This majestic champ towers at an incredible 130 feet. Most Shingle Oaks in the home landscape will top out at around 50 or 60 feet. In pioneer days, settlers really did use the hard, heavy wood for making shingles, and the name stuck.
Shingle Oak adds a novel element to your landscape in fall and winter: sound! The glossy, rich green foliage turns muted shades of gold or red in autumn, then the dry leaves stay on the tree instead of falling. On blustery days, the leaves whisper and rattle, giving voice to an ancient conversation between the wind and the trees.
How to Grow
You’ll want to plant your Shingle Oak in a sunny site where it will have no wires or obstructions overhead and plenty of elbow room. It isn’t fussy about soil and will be fairly drought tolerant once established. Because Shingle Oak holds its leaves in winter and is amenable to pruning, it can be maintained as a hedging or screening plant. Due to the risk of Oak Wilt disease, however, it should only be pruned between December and February—never while actively growing. Shingle Oak is susceptible to rounded growths called galls caused by mites or insects. These galls do no serious damage to the tree and are nothing to worry about.
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