Plant Profile: Northern Pin Oak

Douglas Tallamy, the scientist who wrote the best-seller Bringing Nature Home, says that if you want to plant a tree for pollinators, birds and other wildlife, plant an oak, particularly a native oak. Oaks support more than 500 types of pollinators by providing shelter, food and habitat. They also bring in birds galore.

northern pin oak in hoar frost

Northern pin oaks hold onto their leaves through the winter.

The northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis) is native throughout northern and southeastern Minnesota. It’s a stately medium to large tree for yards with plenty of sun. Most trees top out at 50 to 70 feet tall, with a lovely oval-shaped crown that provides plenty of shade as the tree matures. The leaves of northern pin oak are a darkish green and the fall color is a deep red-russet, turning brown as the season advances. Unlike other deciduous trees, the northern pin oak (and some other oaks) will hold onto their leaves well into the fall or winter — often dropping them near bud break in the spring. This makes them more interesting in the winter landscape and on mornings when there is hoar frost, pin oak leaves will be covered with crystals. The bark of pin oaks is deeply ridged and adds another point of interest in the winter.

Pin oaks grow well in just about any type of soil and are generally resistant to chlorosis, which affects other oaks. If your soil pH is above 7.5, plant an alternative tree.

Plant More Oaks

Last spring, 31 ash trees where removed from the boulevard where I live because of emerald ash borer. The boulevard was re-planted this fall with a diversity of trees. The most common tree, however, was an oak. The city chose the swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), a resilient, long-lived oak that grows quickly. Hopefully, our boulevard will soon be filled with shade from these beautiful plants.

Have you planted an oak? Which one is your favorite about the oak trees?





Leave a Comment