A small tree, frequently a shrub, turkey oak grows up to 40 ft. tall, with stout, spreading, contorted branches forming a broad, irregular-shaped crown. The foliage is so deeply and narrowly lobed leaves that some leaves resemble a turkey foot. Leaves are deciduous, but the brightly colored fall foliage stays on the tree well into winter.
Shrub or small tree normally growing to 43 feet (13 m), occasionally to 72 feet (21.9 m) in height; tree has irregular open crown with crooked branches. BARK: gray to dark gray, mature bark is deeply furrowed with irregular ridges, reddish inner bark. TWIGS and BUDS: dark chestnut-brown twigs with a gray cast, sparsely pubescent, chestnut-brown bark with pubescence; narrowly ovoid buds. LEAVES: smooth petiole 1⁄4 - 1 inch (6 - 25 mm) long; leaf blade broadly ovate or triangular in outline; 4 - 8 inches (101 - 203 mm) long, 3 1⁄8 - 6 inches (79 - 153 mm) wide near middle, base is acute or rounded and decurrent on petiole, margin with 3 - 7 lobes which looks similar to a turkey’s foot, usually with 1 - 3 bristle-tipped teeth, sinuses between lobes are deep; leaf surface is smooth and light green above, paler green below with axillary tufts of reddish hair, raised veins on both surfaces.
The common name refers to the shape of the 3-lobed leaves suggesting a turkeys foot. The Latin species name, meaning smooth, describes the nearly hairless leaves. Spreads by underground runners, especially after frequent fires. This species is similar to Q. falcata in leaf shape and can be distinguished by the tapered leaf base and axillary tufts, whereas the southern red oak leaves have a u-shaped base and pubescence covering the entire lower leaf surface.
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