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Quercus laevis (Turkey oak)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Quercus laevis

Quercus laevis Walter

Turkey Oak

Fagaceae (Beech Family)

Synonym(s): Quercus catesbaei

USDA Symbol: QULA2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

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.


From the Image Gallery

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Deltoid , Ovate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Margin: Lobed
Leaf Base: Rounded
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Catkin
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Normally growing to 43 feet (13 m), occasionally to 72 feet (21.9 m) in height;
Leaf: Leaf surface is smooth and light green above, paler green below with axillary tufts of reddish hair,
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Acorns biennial; nearly sessile short-stalked peduncle; cup - 48 - has pubescent scales with red margins, pubescent inner surface, goblet-shaped cup covering 1⁄3 of nut; broadly elliptical, light brown nut with faint stripes, 3⁄4 - 11⁄8 inch (19 - 29 mm) long, tip often covered with short white pubescence.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May


USA: AL , FL , GA , LA , MS , NC , SC , VA
Native Distribution: Louisiana east to Florida and north to Virginia.
Native Habitat: Dry sandy and well-drained soils on ridges in the southeastern coastal plain.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Sandy, sterile, well-drained soil.


Use Wildlife: It has no commercial value, but acorns provide food for turkey, deer, and small mammals.
Interesting Foliage: yes


Bibref 1134 - Field Guide to Native Oak Species of Eastern North America (2003) Stein, John D. and Denise Binion
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Quercus laevis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Quercus laevis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Quercus laevis


Record Modified: 2013-09-07
Research By: TWC Staff

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