Located near the gazebo, the Quercus palustris welcomes visitors as they progress along the entry drive to the parking lot. It’s common name, Pin Oak, refers to the numerous pin-like, tough, short, slender twigs found along the branches.
The branching of the Pin Oak is distinctive as its upper branches point upward, while its middle branches reach out horizontally, and the lower branches tend to angle downward. Our Pin Oak trunk exhibits scars that indicate that the lower branches may have been trimmed away so that visitors of Bayne Park could easily walk beneath the tree canopy unobstructed by downward angled branches.
Pin Oaks typically form a straight trunk with the ridges of bark becoming rougher and breaking into irregular segments with age. As shown in the image below, the bark can develop small fissures over time.
When young, the overall form of the tree is pyramidal, but as it matures it assumes an upright oval form and can look like a gumdrop.
The leaf is nature’s solar panel. The deeply-lobed bristle-tipped leaves the Pin Oak are important to this tree’s ability to maximize sunlight exposure to the leaf surface. It is considered a multilayered tree because of the way small leaves are arranged from branch to branch to cast less of a shadow, allowing considerable space for light to penetrate between the leaves of the branches above.
Looking at the major vein junctions on the underside of the leaves reveals tufts of hair.
Male and female flowers appear separately but on the same branch in the spring. Male flowers occur in long drooping catkins and female flowers are greenish-red and minute.
The female flowers are fertilized when wind transports pollen from male catkins. The female flowers eventually become acorns, but to become full-sized and ripen they require two growing seasons.
The Autumn leaf coloration of the Pin Oak is variable, leaves can become yellow, bronze, red, or brown.
Some of the leaves of the Pin Oak persist on the branches through the winter. These marcescent leaves are withered but remain attached to the stem. Why would a tree hold onto its leaves?
There are several theories about why this may be beneficial to the tree. When a leaf falls a tiny wound is created when the leaf stem separates from the branch. By holding onto the leaves the tree limits its exposure to disease and it may help the tree keep its winter energy reserves high. Leaves lasting through the winter start to fall in the early Spring as new buds begin to grow. These newly-fallen dried leaves quickly begin to decompose, providing organic material during a time of high nutrient demand as the tree leafs out.
The small rounded acorns of the Pin Oak measures between 1/4 to 3/4 of an inch, and are especially valuable to birds as a food source. They are enjoyed by white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays, tufted titmice, and woodpeckers. In addition, the Pin Oak provides nesting habitat for birds.
Squirrels, like this adorable one visiting our windowsill at Bayne Library, also enjoy the acorns.
The wood of the Pin Oak has many small knots, and is known for being very hard and heavy. It is used for fence posts, firewood, and general construction. Historically, wooden pins made from Pin Oak wood were used to fix timbers together in wooden building construction.
Bark: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast by Michael Wojtech is an indispensible resource on how to identify trees during the winter season, when most of the typical identifying features are lacking.
Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature by Amos M. Clifford is full of activities that you can use to explore the natural world surrounded by trees whether it be in a public park or forest.
Learn more about all the Trees of Bayne Park and explore our Interactive Bayne Park Tree Map to see the locations, photographs, and names of over a dozen different species of trees. Be sure to also visit our Treesources page to lean about local trees, caring for trees, and more.
Written by Linda, Spring 2020