Pin Oak

Quercus palustris

This fine american oak is one of the best trees in the Park for autumn colour. At this time the leaves go yellow, then orange, ending in a brilliant scarlet, with the top of the tree remaining a glossy green. Among american oaks it is recognised as one of the most graceful. It has a tendancy to have a domed top with the lower branches forming what is called a “flaired skirt”. The dome can open with age but ours is still contained. On the downward pointing branches there are thin side shots coming out at right angles. These are the “pins” from which its common name derives.

Our tree has a good straight stem, which is typical, and bristle tipped leaves with distinctive brown tufts. The acorns are unusually small for an oak and almost button-like. They are bitter and consequently unpalatable to many animals. The wood is also relatively useless, being liable to warp and decay easily. In its native north america it is occasionally used for clapper board, but not much else. It reaches its greatest height in the swamps of Ohio.

In Britain it grows quicker than any other american oak. Considering this and its good colour it is surprising it is not more common. Especially as it is the most common tree in Central Park New York. It arrived here in 1800 and a venerable specimen can be seen on the open lawn just south of the Palm House at Kew.