8 Different Types of Oak Trees That Grow in Maine

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In many cultures, the oak tree is a symbol of strength, survival, and nobility – there is a reason that six US states have the mighty oak as their official state tree.

There is no denying that these wonderful trees have a wide variety of benefits for gardeners and the environment – some are valuable as a timber source, others have significant ornamental appeal, while many provide necessary food and shelter for local wildlife.

Thankfully, many oaks can be grown across a broad range of growing zones, from zone 3 to 9, and are adaptable to varying climates and landscapes.

This is excellent news for gardeners who want to grow oak trees in Maine!

Here is a generous selection of oak trees that can be grown successfully in MA, both native and introduced.

8 Hardy Oak Trees To Grow In Maine

1. White Oak (Quercus Alba)

White Oak
Image by Colin Durfee via Flickr

The noble white oak is one of the most common oak trees in eastern North America. It can be found throughout this region and is frequently spotted in central and southern MA.

These native trees not only make an excellent landscaping feature for Maine properties, but they can also support various species of local wildlife and pollinators as a food source and habitat.

It’s important to consider your growing environment when planting a white oak – they can soar to enormous heights with enough space, so gardeners with a more compact property may want to choose a different species.

White oak requires full sun in maturity (though they tolerate partial shade for their first few years), with moist, well-draining acidic to neutral soil. Initially, it will need to be watered well and regularly, though this can taper off after its first season.

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 60-100 feet tall, 50-90 feet wide

Flowering Season: Late spring

Fruiting Season: Early to mid fall

2. Chestnut Oak (Quercus Montana)

chestnut oak
Image by hspauldi via Flickr

This next Maine icon is the chestnut oak, part of the white oak genus, which takes its name from the chestnut-colored bark that they grow in maturity.

These trees can grow to a medium or tall height with a rounded crown of green-yellow leaves, flower catkins that appear in spring, and acorns that are also a food staple for local wildlife.

Overall chestnut oaks are mostly easy to maintain with a long lifespan – the only significant drawback to growing them is their susceptibility to a variety of diseases including root rot, chestnut blight, cankers, and more.

Aside from disease protection, chestnut oaks are easy to grow. They can thrive in a wide range of soils, including dry, rocky ground, as long as the soil is well-drained.

According to the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture, this tree’s greatest quality is its adaptability, being able to survive harsh environments that would kill many other oak types.

Other Common Names: Rock Chestnut oak, Rock oak, Basket oak

Growing Zones: 4b to 8a

Average Size at Maturity: 60-70 feet with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Fruiting Season: Fall

3. Bear Oak (Quercus Ilicifolia)

bear oak
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

For those who picture oak trees as enormous, majestic figures of the forest, the bear oak will likely come as a surprise: these comparatively short, shrubby trees grow to an average of just 20 to 30 feet.

Though this will be too small for some, it’s a great fit for gardeners who want to grow a Maine oak tree that fits a more compact landscape.

The bear oak is adaptable to a variety of landscape types, but in ME you are most likely to find them in forests in the company of other deciduous trees such as the red maple or grey birch.

Despite its diminutive size, It is a valuable species for native wildlife, providing protection and food for bears, deer, squirrels, and wild turkeys!

This tree is shade intolerant, so as a short shrub it needs to be grown in open spaces with little competition. It also prefers dry, acidic, rocky soil. Unfortunately, the bear oak is comparatively short-lived, lasting for only 20-30 years.

Other Common Names: Scrub oak

Growing Zones: 3a – 7a

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 feet high

Flowering Season: Late winter to early spring

Fruiting Season: Fall and early winter

4. Northern Red Oak (Quercus Rubra)

northern red oaks
Image by Wendy Cutler via Flickr

These stately oak trees are native to eastern and central North America and have also been distributed throughout western Europe. The northern red oak is large, fast-growing, and is particularly admired for its stunning fall foliage which can vary from dark orange to pink to bright red.

It is a truly exceptional fall specimen plant for ME gardeners who want an ornamental oak tree. Its hanging green-yellow catkins also provide some spring appeal.

The northern red oak needs full sun and prefers fertile, well-draining, slightly acidic soil. However, it is fairly adaptable and can tolerate varying soil types.

It is also tolerant of air pollution, making it a good option if you want to plant oak trees in an urban environment, either on a suburban property, in a recreational area, or as an ornamental street tree.

Other Common Names: Red oak, Champion oak, American Red oak

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 60-80 feet tall with similar spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Fruiting Season: Winter

5. Black Oak (Quercus Velutina)

Black oak
Image by Laura Camp via Flickr

A common oak in eastern North America, the black oak is a large deciduous tree of the red oak variety.

Though it is a little harder to distinguish than some of its more recognizable counterparts, the black oak can be distinguished by its unusually dark black or brown bark, and the lobes and bristles on the tips of its green leaves.

While they aren’t as desirable for their timber as some oak types, their acorns are a valuable food source for local wildlife such as birds, deer, mice, voles, squirrels, and turkey.

For best results, grow black oak in areas with full sun exposure in deep, fertile, well-draining soil. This tree is shade intolerant but it can adapt to varying soil types, including poor-quality dry soil.

Soil should also be slightly acidic – if pH levels in the soil are too high the tree will be at risk of developing chlorosis.

Other Common Names: Eastern Black oak, Yellow oak, Yellow Bark oak, Smoothbark oak, Quercitron

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 60-80 feet tall in northern locations, 80-130 feet in southern locations. 50-60 feet wide

Flowering Season: Spring

Fruiting Season: Late summer to early fall

6. Swamp White Oak (Quercus Bicolor)

swamp white oak
Image by Nicholas_T via Flickr

Another member of the white oak group, the swamp white oak is native to Maine and elsewhere along the east coast of the US. It has an unusually long lifespan, with many swamp white oaks living up to 300 years according to the Iowa State University Natural Resource Stewardship Extension.

While the young swamp white oaks have attractive peeling bark and orange-gold to yellow fall display, it is better used as a shade tree due to their thick foliage and wide crown.

Like most oak types, swamp white oak prefers full sun, but unlike many others, it is also tolerant to partial shade. For best results grow your tree in acidic soil with high mineral content.

Overall, the swamp white oak is a low-maintenance tree, however, its branches do grow low on the trunk, so if you are growing them along roadsides or thoroughfares you will need to prune the lower branches semi-regularly.

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 50-70 feet tall with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Mid-spring

Fruiting Season: Fall

7. Bur Oak (Quercus Macrocarpa)

bur oak
Image by Justin Meissen via Flickr

If you are looking for the archetypal sprawling, majestic oak tree for your Maine landscape then the bur oak will be a good choice for you!

And of course, if you’re looking for a specimen plant for your compact backyard or urban garden, a smaller tree with a more shallow taproot (such as the bear oak) would suit you better.

Naturally, one of the most important precautions to take when planting a bur oak is to ensure you have enough space. Bur oaks can adapt to all sorts of soil types and can even tolerate poor soil drainage. It is not tolerant to salt spray, which is important to consider if you live on the Maine coastline.

Keep in mind that the bur oak is attractive for its large trunk, broad crown, and ridged bark, but its fall foliage has less appeal than other oak trees.

Other Common Names: Burr oak, Mossycup oak, Blue oak, Scrub oak

Growing Zones: 3-8

Average Size at Maturity: 70-150 feet tall, 60-90 feet wide

Flowering Season: Spring

Fruiting Season: Fall

8. Scarlet Oak (Quercus Coccinea)

scarlet oak
Image by Katja Schulz via Flickr

Another ME native, the scarlet oak is one of the red oak group and has high value as an ornamental and as a source of quality timber. It can also be used as a shade tree due to its open, rounded growing habit.

The scarlet oak is best known for its excellent fall appeal, with leaves turning a brilliant red color in contrast to its dark, near-black looking wood. It would make an exceptional choice for specimen planting in Maine areas with high snowfall.

For best results, plant your scarlet oak in an area with full sun and dry, acidic, well-draining soil. These trees are wonderfully self-sufficient and easy to maintain, needing very little pruning and no fertilizing. Though it will need routine watering in the first year or two, it has no watering needs in maturity.

Growing Zones: 4-9

Average Size at Maturity: 60-80 feet with a 40-50 feet spread

Flowering Season: Late spring

Fruiting Season: Fall

Majestic Ornamentals For Your Backyard

While growing an oak tree can seem intimidating, you needn’t worry. Most of the oak trees on this list are highly adaptable varieties that can grow anywhere from sandy earth to dry, rocky hillsides to tightly packed clay soil.

As long as they have enough sun and the right pH levels, the oak tree of your choice should thrive for many years. Their cold hardiness means you don’t have to worry much about Maine’s growing zones, as most of these oaks tend to thrive anywhere from zone 3 to 9 with a few exceptions – the chestnut oak, swamp white oak, and scarlet oak.

Whether you are looking for a delightful ornamental or a shade tree for the summer, there is a Maine oak tree that will work for your landscape. However, if you are looking for trees that offer a stunning spring display, a flowering tree in Maine may be a preferable option.

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Fern Berg - Founder

Expert Gardener & Horticulturist in Training

Fern has planted and currently cares for over 100 different native and exotic fruit, nut, and ornamental trees. She also cultivates an extensive vegetable garden, several flower gardens and cares for an ever-growing happy family of indoor plants. Fern has a special interest in biodynamic farming, food production and closed loop agriculture. Fern founded Tree Vitalize to help guide others with an interest in tree planting, identification and care.

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