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Nuttall Oak – Ornamental Plant of the Week for November 17, 2014

nuttall oak
Nuttall oak (Photo by Allen Owings)

This is a great time to add new trees to our landscapes. Oak trees are very popular in Louisiana landscapes, and we are familiar with the popular Southern live oak. Deciduous oaks – those that lose foliage in winter – common in Louisiana are water oak, shumard oak, southern red oak and willow oak. The one, however, with the best potential for landscape use is the nuttall oak.

Underused by homeowners and professional landscapers, nuttall oaks offer many advantages. And they’re increasingly available at Louisiana garden centers.

Nuttall oaks are native to Louisiana and are one of the best of the oak species for adaptability to a wide range of soil conditions. Nuttall oaks prefer loamy, well-drained soil but also do well in more poorly drained clay-type soils. Soil pH is not a major factor. In native stands you will see nuttall oaks in association with swamp red maples, water oaks and black willow.

A moderate to fast growth rate is characteristic of nuttall oak. An average mature height of 50 feet or so is common in the landscape, although individual trees can easily reach 80-100 feet. Average spread is anywhere from 25-40 feet.

Nuttall oaks have better branch development at a younger age than other oak trees. The canopy is oval to rounded as the tree begins to mature, with the upper branches ascending and the lower branches being more horizontal in habit. The foliage is coarse-textured with five to nine lobes.

Fall foliage color is typically good to excellent on nuttall oaks. Color is better in north and central Louisiana than in south Louisiana. Acorn production is good on nuttall oaks, and they are a great source of wildlife food. Nuttall oak has no pests or disease issues of major concern, although improper pruning cuts can lead to stem cankers.

Very few oak trees are better for landscape use and adaptability than nuttall oak. The LSU AgCenter has nuttall oak listed as a top-rated tree for the New Orleans area. It performs equally well elsewhere in the state. Its tolerance to varying soil conditions, moderate growth rate, great fall foliage color and good branching characteristics make for outstanding performance.

Allen Owings
Rick Bogren

Last Updated: 11/14/2014 4:17:02 PM

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