Forest 41 - Pin oak

Quercus palustris 'Freefall'

Leaves of Pin oak Freefall tree. Photo not from the Arboretum, by L. Hawke Quercus palustris 'Freefall' trees. Photo not from the Arboretum

Origin of the species name

Quercus is Latin for oak; palustris is Latin meaning growing in marshes or wet places; 'Freefall' is a cultivar name referring to the autumn leaf fall.


This forest of about 600 trees was sponsored by Engineers Australia.



Date planted

July 2009


Pin oaks can live about 130 years and take around 80 years to attain mature height.

General description

This is a medium to large deciduous tree. Its crown is conical when young with a central leader and numerous branches. Its leaves are sharply lobed and after autumn are usually held on the tree until next spring. 'Freefall' was selected to overcome this character. It belongs to the 'red oak' section of the genus. Height 25m Spread 15m.

Natural distribution and habitat

The species is native to eastern North America, but the cultivar 'Freefall' was wholly developed through research in Canberra, Australia. The species grows primarily on level or nearly level, poorly drained alluvial floodplain and river bottom, often in soils with high clay content.

Conservation status

It is not a threatened species.

Planting pattern

Most trees are planted in a regular square grid pattern, with some lower rows following contour lines.


The 'Freefall' cultivar of the pin oak is one of Canberra's outstanding trees. In 1965, Dr Robert Boden OAM began developing a cultivar of Quercus palustris that defoliates after the autumn show of colour. He took cuttings from pin oaks that fully defoliated in autumn and trialled them at the Yarralumla Nursery. Apical buds taken from these trees grown were grafted onto pin oak seedlings. These were the first plants of the cultivar 'Freefall', which fully defoliates in autumn.

Further reading

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