Tree Detective

I had never heard of a Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) before a recent class I took. The reason the tree stood out to me was its acorns which looked little winter hats with fuzz around the rim. Since these trees seem to grow in climates somewhat colder than where I live this seemed sort of fitting to me in an odd way and I secretly wondered if “Burr” had anything to do with what the tree was thinking such as “Burrr, I’m cold. I need to make some more fuzzy acorns to keep warm”. Ok I know this is getting silly.

Anyway, I have been amusing myself lately trying to identify various oak trees that I come across. I was at a local nature preserve and noticed a number of oaks growing near the former welcome center. I pulled out my handy tree key and started trying to figure out what they were. One tree keyed out to be a Burr Oak. Hmmm? That seemed odd to me; maybe I mis-keyed it. Below is a rubbing I took of one of the leaves. It certainly looked like a Burr Oak leaf. But I was still skeptical.

Burr Oak Leaves

Moving over a few feet to key some other oak trees on the grounds, I noticed a lot of leaf litter and other debris at the base of the trees. It is also good to look at this for some additional clues such as acorns, other fruits, flowers, etc. There in the leaf litter was this odd looking thing; I didn’t know what it was. So of course I picked it up. It was certainly very large and unusual looking. Then a lightbulb went off in my head: A Burr Oak Acorn!

Cap of a Burr Oak Acorn

Finding this cemented that the tree a few feet to my left was indeed a Burr Oak! The diameter of this acorn cap is about 1.5 inches- pretty big. Though this explains the botanical name: Quercus (the genus for all oak trees) macrocarpa, which means “large fruit”. Below is my sketch of the cap of the acorn with the live model.

Mystery solved!

Sketch of Burr oak acorn

9 thoughts on “Tree Detective

  1. I wrote a couple of posts on the burr oak a couple of years ago on my Confused blog. They have several trees in a display area at the Norristown Farm Park. I tried to grow from the acorns but no luck. I will see if I can send you the link in email or you could search for it on the blog with Norristown Farm Park as the term. Love to see these acorns again. They are unique.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely! In high school our revered biology teacher, Miss Pflugfelder, gave us a mimeographed leaf and tree guide that she had made herself and took us out to explore the woods. A fond memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting! I have many different oaks on my property, but no burr oaks. My favorite is the water oak with its tiny little acorns (and I love the shape of its leaves). Where did you take the tree course?

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  4. Hi Catherine! I took the course at the North House School of Folk Art in Minnesota!! It was via Zoom of course. I have to look for a water oak, do not believe I have come across one, at least when I was paying attention. The Burr Oaks are up North so that was quite unusual.


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