Oak Tree Leaves

Variations In Oak Tree Leaves

You might think that when you've seen oak tree leaves from one tree you've seen them all, and from that time on identifying the leaves will be a simple process. The day may come however when you identify a tree as an oak tree, only to find out it’s a maple tree. Some oak tree leaves look very much the same as maple tree leaves at first glance, but there are significant differences.



One you've learned to tell oak tree leaves from maple tree leaves you may think you've got it made, only to find out that there are many different types of oak tree, and consequently many different types of oak tree leaves, some of which don't closely resemble any of the others. All of a sudden you've come to the realization that identifying oak tree leaves can be quite a project, not only because of the various types of oak trees commonly found in nature, some of which are deciduous and some of which are evergreen, but also because there are many hybrid oak trees in existence, with the leaves of one hybrid often having at least minute differences from the next. Identifying the various kinds of oak tree leaves is not only a project, but can become a full-fledged study.

We think of oak trees as being old, large, and a symbol of enduring strength. Heavy doors are made of oak, ships used to be constructed of oak, as were many buildings. Scotch whiskey would not be Scotch whiskey if it were not for the flavor imparted from oak barrels. We often assume that oak wood is among the hardest of the hardwoods, though in reality it is among the softest wood in the hardwood tree family.

If you do want to take up a study of oak leaves you should know that there are over 600 known varieties, they on mountain sides in the Himalayas, in the Scottish highlands, in temperate zones throughout the world, and even in Polynesia and the tropics. Cool climate oak trees are nearly always deciduous while some warmer climate oaks are evergreens.

What most all oak tree leaves have in common is they are thin, flat and wide, hence are referred to as broad leaf. Most, though not all oak leaves feature lobes, with spaces in between the lobes called sinuses. The number of lobes can vary from species to species. Some leaves have a smooth margin, others a lobed margin, and yet others a serrated margin. Some leaves have small hairs on them while others do not. On some varieties the leaves appear in bunches, in other varieties they do not. The overall shape of an oak leaf can be ovate, elliptic, obovate, or somewhere in between.

A Few Examples - One of the more commonly seen leaves, common in that the variety, the Common Oak, is found all over the world, has 4" leaves having 4 to 5 equal-sized and rounded lobes, which grow in  bunches. The Laurel Oak leaf on the other hand does not have lobes. Also known as the Shingle Oak, its leaves are ovate in shape.

The Live Oak has very slender leaves which are from 2" to 5" long, with the longer leaves being about 1" in width. This leaf, which is shiny dark green and leathery in appearance, though is a dull gray green underneath, has a smooth, slightly wavy margin and a pointed tip. The Pin Oak leaf has lobes similar to most other oaks, but the sinuses are very deep, extending nearly to the stem and the lobe tips are bristled.

There are more varieties and more differences. What has been described above is the tip of the iceberg as far as differences in oak tree leaves are concerned. The oak tree, with its many varieties probably exhibits more different types of leaves than most other species of trees, and indeed can be the basis for an interesting study.