Identifying oaks, or trees in general can be quite a challenge. there so many different species spread out across the globe, you can easily get confused especially in winter. to be able to identify the exact species you need quite some knowledge and experience, but with a few little steps you can get close enough and distinguish common tree species like oak, maple, beech, birch etc. in this post we will focus on identifying Oak trees and how to distinguish Red from White oak species.
The best time of year to identify an oak in my opinion would be summer, when the leaves are green and the fruits are growing. leaves and fruits are also one of the easiest ways to get a general idea of what species tree you are looking at. The first thing you do is take a good look at the Lobes and Sinus of the leaf, white oak have round Lobes and often a few deep and shallow Sinuses, it has a deep but brighter green color in summer and is somewhat shiney. Red oak have pointy Lobes and mostly deep Sinuses with a darker green color.
In late summer/autumn the color of the leaves slowly turn yellow and red, before they eventually turn brown. Red oak species usually have far brighter colors when autumn nears while white oak species turn dull brown faster
The oak tree bears fruits, which are called Acorns. if you don’t know what an acorn looks like, imagine a squirrel. whats it holding and hiding in the woods? yes that thing is a acorn, for squirrels love acorns. Acorns start as a small buts on the branches, but eventually grow bigger and usually contain only 1 seed, Acorns vary in size and color depending on the specie of oak, initially there green and turn darker brown when getting ripe. in autumn Oak lose their acorn, so either look on the branches or search the ground for acorn to confirm you are standing next to an oak. The cap of the acorn can be pulled off, if you hold it with the hollow part towards you between your thumbs and index finger, pointing your thumbs outwards (basically creating a V shape with your thumbs on the edge of the acorn cap) and then blow on the edge, you can easily use it as a whistle.
The bark of Oak trees is Very rough and tough, with vertical ridges and usually a greyish or dark brownish color, with some species the bark on higher parts of the trunk peel of as paper. but lower to the ground the ridges turn wide and deep, the bark is very hard.
though surely not the biggest of trees, the Oak tree grows fairly large and wide, with an average between 15 and 20 meters high when mature and a average span of 15 meters from branch to branch. one of the tallest white oaks known today is about 30 meters high and with a span of almost 24 meters
When Oak is cut into boards and you are looking at the plain sawn hardwood part, you can recognize it by the light to medium brown color or if its from Red oak, a slightly red tinted color. The grain is a bit darker and the flame pattern is rough and wild. if the board is Quarter sawn Oak is easily identified by the flecks that become visible which are usually much brighter then the grain or wood itself.