Bluff oak

Quercus austrina
Family: Fagaceae

Natural History
Leaves, acorn, and bark of bluff oak
Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida

Bluff oak gets its name from the locations where it is most commonly found, on bluffs or slopes above rivers or streams. The tree is most distinctive for its bark, which is a pale yellow-gray and forms vertical strips of plates or scales up the trunk. The bark strips are narrow and less obvious at the base of the tree, but they widen and become more pronounced higher on the trunk.

The leaves of bluff oak have 3 to 7 rounded, shallow lobes along the margin. Individual leaves can be symmetrical along the midvein or they can be very irregular. The acorns are small and are sometimes almost enclosed in the cupule.

Bluff oak is not a widely-known species because it only occurs naturally in a small, narrow strip of the southeastern United States. The native range stretches from Mississippi through the northern part of Florida and up into North Carolina. And even in that area, is is not a common tree. Bluff oak is not widely used commercially and it is not commonly available through plant nusuries, but it is said to have great potential as a landscaping plant. The branches do not need much pruning and they tend to stay upright and out of the way.


Identifying Characteristics

Habitat: Found in the north half of Florida (from Lake county northwards) on slopes, ravines, and river bluffs.
Size/Form: A medium to large tree (30-80'), often with a narrow crown.
Bark: Distinctively pale or cream-colored. Forms plates or scales in flattened, vertical ridges.
Leaves: Alternate, simple leaves with very irregular, rounded lobes. Each leaf is 2-6" long and has 5-7 shallow lobes. Upper surface dark green and moderately shiny. Lower surface olive-green and dull.
Fruit: Small acorns, 0.5 to 0.75" long. Cupules broad, sometimes almost enclosing the smaller acorns.



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