wpe5.jpg (2127 bytes)U.P. TREE  IDENTIFICATION  KEY
from Michigan State University Extension

THE OAKS
Northern Red Oak, Northern Pin Oak, Bur Oak, White Oak, and American Beech
Fagaceae, The Beech Family

ROAK-header.jpg (10891 bytes)The beech family has many tree and shrub species, with 6 genera and about 600 species that occur world-wide with concentrations in the northern temperate zone.  Five genera and roughly 90 species occur in North America.  Although most members are oaks, the family is named after beech because early plant classification was done by Europeans, where the European beech is a common tree.  The oak genus (Quercus) has two subgroups, the red oaks and the white oaks.  The red oak group is characterized by sharply pointed leaf lobes with bristles.  The white oak group has rounded lobes without bristles.  ACORNS are readily recognized fruits of the oaks. Acorns of red oaks take two years to mature.  White oak acorns mature in one year.  All members, except beech, have male FLOWERS arranged in catkins that bloom in the spring.  In the U.P. the only common species are beech and red oak. We are on the northern fringe of the historical oak range. 


Beech.jpg (40959 bytes)  AMERICAN BEECH (Fagus grandifolia)
  Other Names:  White Beech, Gray Beech, Red Beech, Ridge Beech
  Key ID Features:  Leaves, Buds, Bark, Fruit

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Beech LEAVES are 3-4 inches long with many "points" or coarse teeth along the margin.   Lateral leaf veins are nearly parallel with each other.  There are not any other U.P. trees with leaves similar to beech.  Separate male and female FLOWER clusters form in the spring.  BEECH-NUTS are about a half inch in size, housed in a spiny husk that splits into four parts.  The triangular nuts ripen in the fall and are an excellent food source for many species of wildlife, such as deer and turkey.  TWIGS are brown and slender.   The terminal BUDS of beech are about an inch long, shaped sort of like little cigars.  The BARK is smooth and gray, even in large diameter trees. Tree SIZES can usually reach 60-80 feet in height and 2-3 feet in diameter.  Beech is a common ASSOCIATE of our northern hardwood forest type, but only in the eastern U.P.  Oddly enough, beech does not commonly occur in the western counties.  Beech is very tolerant of shade and, as a result, is common in the understory of many forest stands.  During winter months, these understory beech often retain many of their pale brown leaves.  Ironwood is another understory species that will often retain leaves into the winter.  However, ironwood leaves are a darker brown.  Common Pests: cankerwormsbeech bark disease.


Oak NRed.jpg (42765 bytes)  NORTHERN RED OAK (Quercus rubra)
  Other Names:  Red Oak, Gray Oak, Eastern Red Oak, Mountain Red Oak
  Key ID Features:  Leaves, Buds, Acorns, Stiff Twigs

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LEAVES of red oak are highly variable in size and proportions of lobes and sinuses. "Normally", leaves are 5-9 inches long with 7-9 sharply pointed lobes.  Leaf sizes can come much smaller and much larger.  Usually the mid-section of the leaf is much broader than the lobes, yielding an appearance of being more leaf than space.  ACORNS are about 3/4 to 1 inch long with the acorn cup covering about 1/4 of the acorn.  Acorn shape varies.  Terminal BUDS of red oak are usually in a cluster.  TWIGS are steely gray and quite stiff.  BARK on young trees is also smooth and steely gray.  As trees grow larger, very firm plates and flattened ridges form.  On preferred sites and properly managed, red oak can grow magnificently formed, high-value TRUNKS.  Red oak grows best on rich, well-drained SOILS. Common ASSOCIATES include northern hardwoods, pines, red maple, paper birch, and black cherry.  Red oak is most common in the central U.P. and the Keweenaw peninsula, although it can be found across the region.  It can be very difficult to tell the difference between poor quality red oak and normal pin oak. Common pests: fall webworm, gypsy moth, leaf galls, loopers, cankerworms, orange-striped oakworm, skeletonizers, tussock moths, ugly nest caterpillar, walkingsticks, carpenter worm, red oak borer, two-lined chestnut borer, oak twig pruner, Anthracnose, oak wilt, Cylindrocladium root rot. 


Oak NPin.jpg (39574 bytes)  NORTHERN PIN OAK (Quercus ellipsoidales)
 
Other Names:   Hill’s Oak, Scrub Oak, Jack Oak
  Key ID Features:   Leaves, Buds, Acorns, Stiff Twigs


The LEAVES of northern pin oak are 3-7 inches long and 5-7
lobes with deep-cut sinuses and bristles on the end of each lobe. The leaf appears to have more space than leaf surface. The ACORNS are similar to red oak, but tend to be skinnier. The cup covers 1/3 to 1/2 the acorn. The extremely stiff TWIGS are branchier with a random pattern. The SCRUBBY-LOOKING tree seldom attains a size larger than 40-50 feet in HEIGHT and a foot in DIAMETER. The BARK is smooth and gray on smaller trees and becomes rough and broken with age. The INNER BARK is yellowish. Pin oak is often found on drier, sandier SITES in ASSOCIATION with jack pine, paper birch, aspen, hazel, and other brush species. It commonly reproduces through stump sprouts, therefore often grows in clumps.  Incidentally, there is another pin oak (Quercus palustris) that grows in the central hardwood region.  It can be very difficult to tell the difference between poor quality red oak and normal pin oak. 
Common pests: fall webworm, gypsy moth, leaf galls, loopers, cankerworms, orange-striped oakworm, skeletonizers, tussock moths, ugly nest caterpillar, walkingsticks, carpenter worm, red oak borer, two-lined chestnut borer, oak twig pruner, Anthracnose, oak wilt, Cylindrocladium root rot.   


Oak Bur.jpg (39628 bytes)  BUR OAK (Quercus macrocarpa)
 
Other Names:   Prairie Oak, Mossycup Oak, Scrub Oak, Blue Oak
  Key ID Features:  Leaves, Acorns, Corky Twigs, Buds

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LEAVES of bur oak are 6-12 inches long with rounded lobes. Deep sinuses generally cut nearly to the mid-vein of most leaves.  Knobby and shallow-sinused lobes at the leaf end give the leaf a "club-shaped" appearance.  ACORNS are blunt, about an inch long, with a fuzzy cup covering nearly at least three-quarters of the acorn.  Acorns usually grow at the end of a short stalk.  TWIGS are stout, often with ridges or corky bark formations.  Terminal BUDS are oval, sometimes with short hairs.  The thick, medium-gray BARK allows the tree to survive most ground fires, which is why bur oak is sometimes called prairie oak.   It was one of the few trees to survive the frequent prairie fires.  Bur oak prefers deep, rich, bottom-land SOILS, but will grow on just about any kind of soil from dry gravel ridges to wetlands.  The tree will grow to HEIGHTS of 50-60 feet and DIAMETERS of over three feet, but often occurs in the U.P. as a SCRUBBY TREE in Menominee, Gogebic, and Chippewa counties.  It probably was not a component of the U.P. forest until European settlement.  Common pests: fall webworm, gypsy moth, leaf galls, loopers, cankerworms, orange-striped oakworm, skeletonizers, tussock moths, ugly nest caterpillar, walkingsticks, carpenter worm, red oak borer, two-lined chestnut borer, oak twig pruner, Anthracnose, oak wilt, Cylindrocladium root rot. 


Oak White.jpg (38693 bytes)  WHITE OAK (Quercus alba)
 
Other Names:   Stave Oak, Barrel Oak
  Key ID Features:  Leaves, Buds, Acorns

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LEAVES are 5-9 inches long with 7-9 rounded, evenly-spaced lobesSinus depth variable.  ACORNS are about 3/4 of a inch long with a cup enclosing about a 1/4 of the acorn.   Greenish-maroon-brown TWIGS have large clusters of roundish terminal BUDS.  The BARK is light to medium gray with shallow cracks and sometimes a little scaly.  White oak is a component of forests in southern Michigan and Wisconsin.  It is quite RARE in the U.P. and most likely occurs in the southern end of Menominee County or in some residential areas.  Common pests: fall webworm, gypsy moth, leaf galls, loopers, cankerworms, orange-striped oakworm, skeletonizers, tussock moths, ugly nest caterpillar, walkingsticks, carpenter worm, red oak borer, two-lined chestnut borer, oak twig pruner, Anthracnose, oak wilt, Cylindrocladium root rot. 


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This site created and maintained by Bill Cook, MSU Extension Forester for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   Editing and modification is ongoing.  Submit suggestions, questions, and corrections to cookwi@msu.edu or call 906-786-1575. 

 

 

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