What is a Shumard Oak?

C.B. Fox
C.B. Fox
Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

A Shumard oak, Quercus shumardii, is a large tree in the beech family native to the southeastern United States. These trees have a long life span, grow quickly and thrive in many different climates and soil conditions, which makes them popular trees for use in landscaping and reforestation efforts. The Shumard oak is also known as the Shumard red oak, Schneck oak, spotted oak and swamp red oak.

Shumard oaks are a hardy species of oak that can grow to up to 125 feet (38 m) high and have been known to live 480 years or more. At maturity, the trunk diameter is typically 24-39 inches (60-100 cm). The crown, where the leafy upper branches are, typically reaches 39-59 feet (12-18 m) across.

The leaves of the Shumard oak remain green long into the fall before turning brown and red. The trees shed their leaves yearly and regrow new ones in the spring. After they reach maturity at about 25 years of age, Shumard oaks will produce a yearly crop of acorns.

The acorns are relatively large, growing up to 1 inch (3 cm) in diameter and are an important food source for songbirds, wild turkey, squirrels and deer. Though they have a bitter taste, the acorns can be eaten by humans after the tannins have been leached out. They can be ground into flour, roasted and eaten whole.

These trees are tolerant of a variety of weather conditions but thrive in areas with moist, nutrient-rich soil. A native of the more mild climates of the southern U.S., Shumard oaks do not do well in regions with long, cold winters. The trees have weak roots and do not tolerate flooding well. Shumard oaks, because of their sensitive roots, might die if they are transplanted, and they should be placed in their permanent home while still saplings. Mature specimens can, however, survive mild fire damage, because the trees are native to areas that are maintained by periodic fires.

Shumard oak is susceptible to many diseases that affect other red oak species. Oak wilt is of particular concern to these types of trees. Powdery mildew, shoestring root and cancer diseases also are concerns.

The Shumard oak is has a variety of commercial uses. In landscaping, the trees are frequently used for shade. They produce a strong, heavy, coarse-grained wood, so Shumard oaks are valued for their lumber. They are often used in flooring, trim, cabinetry and furniture.

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