Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Swamp Chestnut Oak - Quercus michauxii   Nuttall
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Section 6 » Order Fagales » Family Fagaceae
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AuthorNuttall
DistributionGenerally throughout the Coastal Plain and all but the extreme western Piedmont. Apparently absent in the mountains and in the Piedmont foothills. Of somewhat spotty distribution in the Piedmont, though probably present in all counties at least west to Rockingham, Iredell, and Rutherford.

This is a species of the Southeastern states, ranging over the Coastal Plain and most of the Piedmont north to NJ, southern IL, and southeastern MO, south to central FL and eastern TX. It does occur in some montane provinces such as Ridge and Valley and the Cumberland Mountains, but mostly is absent in the Appalachians.
AbundanceGenerally common in the Coastal Plain and lower Piedmont, more so where there are brownwater floodplains; less numerous in some of the eastern Coastal Plain counties that lack brownwater floodplains. Infrequent to locally fairly common in the central Piedmont, but scarce in the western portions.
HabitatThis is a species of rich, typically brownwater floodplains, where flooding is rare or infrequent. It is normally absent in blackwater floodplains. It can be a major component of Bottomland Forests, along with other oaks such as Cherrybark (Q. pagoda) and Willow (Q. phellos). It also occurs in Upland Depressions within otherwise upland forest stands, in the Piedmont. Where the soils are of high pH, the species can occur on lower to rarely mid-slopes in Basic Mesic Forests.
See also Habitat Account for General Wet Hardwood Forests
PhenologyFlowers in April and May, and fruits in September and October of the same year.
IdentificationThis is a familiar, large deciduous tree, typically reaching at least 90’, rarely over 100’ tall. The bark is quite different from the similar Chestnut Oak (Q. montana); Swamp Chestnut Oak has rather flat bark that is rather scaly, as opposed to the deep “ridge and valley” furrowed bark of Chestnut Oak. The habitat of the two differ, in that the latter grows only in uplands, and usually in rocky uplands; however, Swamp Chestnut Oak can grow in uplands, but only where the soil is rich or damp. The leaves of Swamp Chestnut Oak are more obovate (top-shaped), with the widest part typically well past the midpoint of the leaf; both species have numerous shallow and rounded lobes. The species also must be separated from the rare Chinquapin Oak (Q. muehlenbergii), which only grows on circumneutral soil, but as a result the two can be found together in a few places. Chinquapin Oak leaves typically are elliptical (not obviously obovate), average narrower, and typically have more triangular (and less rounded) lobes than do leaves of Swamp Chestnut Oak.
Taxonomic CommentsEssentially none, though a few very old references failed to recognize this as a valid species (from Q. montana).

Other Common Name(s)Basket Oak, very rarely Cow Oak. Though “Chestnut Oak” is a nested name, and thus there can be confusion of these two species in usage, nearly all references continue to use Swamp Chestnut Oak as the common name for this species.
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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