Forest 18 - Burr Oak

Quercus macrocarpa

Burr Oak tree. Photo not from the Arboretum. Leaves and acorns from Burr oak tree. Photo not from the Arboretum.

Other common names

Mossycup oak, Mossycup white oak, Burl oak. Indigenous:  Mitigomizh (Ojibwe)

Origin of the species name

Quercus is Latin for oak tree; macrocarpa is Greek for long fruit.



Date planted

February 2008


Burr oaks can live to around 300 years.

General description

This is a medium to tall deciduous tree. It is wide spreading with a rounded crown and shaggy bark. The leaves are up to 15cm long and are markedly lobed, turning brown in autumn. It produces large acorns in hairy cups. It belongs to the 'white oak' section of the genus. Height 25 Spread 15m

Natural distribution and habitat  

The species is native to North America in the eastern and midwestern United States and south-central Canada. It is one of the most cold-tolerant oak species and endures a wide variety of other conditions including poor dry soils and wet, poorly-drained, and inundated locations.  It also grows in rich bottom lands.

Conservation status

Although it is not generally considered to be a threatened species, some populations have been severely reduced, such as the oak savannah in the Minnesota Valley where only 0.02% remains. Years of fire suppression and grazing have allowed many invasive species to take over the savannah. It is considered as an endangered species in Connecticut, USA.


It produces one of the best and most durable oak timbers that is used for cabinetry, barrels, hardwood flooring and fence posts. Native Americans used it medicinally and the acorns were roasted in ashes or boiled, mashed and eaten with grease or duck broth.

Planting pattern

Planted in rows that follow a broad zigzag pattern.

Further reading

Palmer, C (2008) Trees and Forests of North America. Abrams.