Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.
Oak trees are very popular in Louisiana landscapes. We are all very familiar with the evergreen Southern live oak. Popular deciduous oak trees in Louisiana include water oak, shumard oak, southern red oak and willow oak. But the one with possibly the best potential for landscape use is the nuttall oak. These oaks are underused by homeowners and professional landscapers and offer many advantages. Nuttall oaks are increasingly available at garden centers across the state.
Nuttall oaks are native to Louisiana and are one of the best of the oak species for adaptability to a wide range of soil conditions. Nuttall oaks prefer loamy, well-drained soil but do well in more poorly drained clay-type soils. Soil pH is not a major factor. In native stands you will see nuttall oaks in association with swamp red maples, water oaks and black willow.
Moderate to fast growth is characteristic of nuttall oak. An average mature height of 50 feet or so is common, although individual trees can easily reach 80-100 feet tall. Average spread is anywhere from 25-40 feet. Nuttall oaks have better branch development than other oak trees at a younger age. The canopy is oval to rounded as the tree begins to mature with the upper branches ascending and the lower branches being more horizontal in habit. The foliage is coarse textured with five to nine lobes.
Fall foliage color is typically good to excellent on nuttall oaks. Color is better in north and central Louisiana than in south Louisiana. Acorn production is good on nuttall oaks, and they are a great source of wildlife food. Nuttall oak has no pests or disease issues of major concern. Improper pruning cuts can lead to stem cankers.
Very few oak trees are better for landscape use and adaptability than nuttall oak. The LSU AgCenter has nuttall oak listed as a top-rated tree for the New Orleans area. Its tolerance to varying soil conditions, moderate growth rate, great fall foliage color and good branching characteristics make for outstanding performance.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture