Post Oak, a Common Tree in North America

Quercus stellata, a Top 100 Common Tree in North America

Post oak (Quercus stellata), sometimes called iron oak, is a medium-sized tree abundant throughout the southeastern and south central United States where it forms pure stands in the prairie transition area. This slow-growing oak typically occupies rocky or sandy ridges and dry woodlands with a variety of soils and is considered drought resistant. The wood is very durable in contact with soil and used widely for fenceposts, hence, the name.

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The Silviculture of Post Oak

post oak leaves
(Famartin/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Post oak is a valuable contributor to wildlife food and cover. Considered a beautiful shade tree for parks, post oak is often used in urban forestry. It is also planted for soil stabilization on dry, sloping, stony sites where few other trees will grow. The wood of post oak, commercially called white oak, is classified as moderately to very resistant to decay. It is used for railroad ties, lathing, siding, planks, construction timbers, mine timbers, trim molding, stair risers and treads, flooring (its highest volume finished products), fenceposts, pulp, veneer, particle boards, and fuel.

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The Images of Post Oak

post oak tree leaves and acorns
(Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons) provides several images of parts of post. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Fagales > Fagaceae > Quercus stellata. Due to varying leaf shapes and acorn sizes, several varieties of post oak have been recognized-sand post oak (Q. stellata var. margaretta (Ashe) Sarg.), and Delta post oak (Quercus stellata var. paludosa Sarg.)

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The Range of Post Oak

Distribution map of post oak trees
Distribution map for Quercus stellata - post oak. (Little, E.L., Jr./Wikimedia Commons)

Post oak is widespread in the eastern and central United States from southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, southern Connecticut, and extreme southeastern New York; south to central Florida; and west to southeastern Kansas, western Oklahoma, and central Texas. In the Midwest, it grows as far north as southeastern Iowa, central Illinois, and southern Indiana. It is an abundant tree in coastal plains and the Piedmont and extends into the lower slopes of the Appalachian Mountains.

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Post Oak at Virginia Tech

post oak tree
The Houston Campsite Oak, a Post Oak (Quercus stellata) in Grapevine Springs Preserve, Coppell, Texas, United States, is where Sam Houston and his agents camped in 1843 while successfully negotiating a peace treaty with Native American tribes. (Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Leaf: Alternate, simple, oblong, 6 to 10 inches long, with 5 lobes, the two middle lobes are distinctly square, resulting in an overall cruciform appearance, thickened texture; green above with scattered stellate pubescence, pubescent and paler below.

Twig: Gray or tawny-tomentose and dotted with numerous lenticels; multiple terminal buds are short, blunt, orange-brown, somewhat pubescent, short, thread-like stipules may be present.

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Fire Effects on Post Oak

pressed leaves tile
Persimmon and Post Oak. (Steve Nix)

In general, small post oaks are top-killed by low-severity fire, and more severe fires top-kill larger trees and may kill rootstocks as well.