Turkey oak

Quercus laevis
Family: Fagaceae

Natural Historyturkey oak branch
Autumn foliage of turkey oak
Photo credit: Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University, Bugwood.org

The turkey oak is one of the characteristic trees associated with the sandhill community over much of Florida. The common name refers to the shape of the three lobed leaves that resemble a turkey's foot. The specific epithet, laevis, comes from the Latin word for "smooth" and describes the nearly hairless leaves. Due to its abundance, the turkey oak may be considered a weed tree in certain areas of Florida.

Habitat & Range

The turkey oak is an upland tree which grows on the well-drained, sandy, sterile soils. It is commonly associated with longleaf pine, bluejack oak and sand post oak. It is found on the coastal plain and Piedmont from southeastern Virginia to south Florida, west to Texas, and north to south Arkansas at elevations up to 500 feet.

Wildlife Use

The acorns of the turkey oak are an important food source for large and small animals in the sandhill community.

Human Use

The wood is heavy, hard, strong, and light brown in color with a light red tint. It has been used for fuel, lumber, and general construction in the past, but today is used mainly for fuel wood, barbecuing, and construction on farms.


 

Identifying Characteristics

Size/Form: Turkey oak is a small tree that reaches 20 to 30 feet in height, rarely up to 60 feet, with a 2-foot diameter. It is characterized as having a broad open crown. It is often shrubby on the poorest sites.
Leaves: Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous. The leaves, with 3 to 7 narrow lobes and deep sinuses, resemble a turkey foot. Each leaf, 3 to 12 inches long, possesses a small point at the tip. They are 3 to 12 inches long, 1 to 8 inches wide, oval or triangular in shape, are 3-7 lobed, and have sharply pointed tips. The terminal lobes are irregular and the apex is 3 toothed. Leaf bases are wedge-shaped. Leaves are lustrous yellow-green above, paler below, sometimes with rusty-red pubescence along the veins. Leaf petioles are short, stout, and grooved.
Twigs: The twigs are stout and red, becoming dark brown and glabrous with age. The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous.
Bark: The younger trees possess a dark to blackish bark that becomes thick, rough, and deeply furrowed into irregular ridges as the tree matures. The inner bark is red in color.
Flowers: The flowers are monoecious and bloom in November.
Fruit: Fruit is an acorn, usually grown solitary. The nut is ovoid, up to 1 inch long, brown, and woolly at the tip.
Similar Trees on the Florida 4-H Forest Ecology Contest List:
There are three other trees on our list that have simple, alternate, pinnately-lobed leaves.

 

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