11 Bur Oak
Image of the Tree You are Viewing

Basic Information about this tree
  • Scientific Name: Quercus macrocarpa – literal translation = white oak genus, large-fruit species

    Common Name: Bur (or ‘burr”) oak , so-called because the acorn caps, with their many little curved protrusions, resemble burrs.

    Deciduous – drops its leaves in Fall – Late Winter

    Sunlight / Moisture Soil Preferences Bur oak favors rich bottomland alluvial soils, but can grow well on other marginal sites such as rocky hillsides, limestone soils, dry clays, given full sun conditions. (reference USDA https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/plantmaterials/mtpmctn11275.pdf)

    Flowering type:  Bur oaks are monoecious, with male (“catkins”)and female flowers occurring separately but on the same individual tree.

    Pollination strategy: Wind


    Age Estimate / Health50 years, healthy

    Longevity: 200-400 years

    Mature Size: 80 ft tall by 60-100 ft under ideal conditions

    GPS Coordinates:  N45.00287  W92.90349

Mature Tree in Winter/ Summer

Leaves in Summer / Fall


Flowers - Female & Male (monoecious)


Images of Acorns, unripe / Ripe


Bark of Mature Tree / root system sketch

placeholder +

Growth habit of roots: At the end of the first growing season, bur oak may be only a foot tall, but the taproot may reach more than 4 feet into the ground and the lateral roots may spread more than 2 feet to either side. It has perhaps the deepest, most extensive root system of any tree in Minnesota. Reference https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mcvmagazine/issues/2021/sep-oct/profile.html#:~:text=At%20the%20end%20of%20the,of%20any%20tree%20in%20Minnesota.

Uses in Modern and Traditional Eras

Value for Wildlife: One of the best trees for wildlife, acorns add to the forest floor mast layer which feeds many birds and mammals including wild turkey and squirrels, good nesting sites in the branches.

Utility for Humans: Long-lasting sturdy tree, good shade provider. The wood of the bur oak is strong and useful for carpentry and construction as well as being prized for firewood due to clean-burning characteristics. 

Traditional uses in Native American Tree Medicine (historical):

Information provided by Paul Red Elk, Lakota Medicine Man:

Bur oak has a long history with the woodland American Indians Using small
Bur Oak twigs and young tree buds steeped into a tea it would relieve poor
digestion. It has been used to treat ulcers internally and externally.
Medicine people would harvest the inner bark. They would dry it for several
months. It was cut into smaller pieces using a motor and pedestal grind it
into a powder. Topically it would be applied externally to soothe skin ulcers.
Bur Oak has been used in the treatment of cholera and gonorrhea. Tea
wash have been used as douches to treat vaginal infections
There is a very small number of tannins remaining. The healers would
make a salve out of the inner bark gnarly branches from small branches.
twigs, and small leaf buds they would simmer for hours by adding bear or
sturgeon fat they made an arthritis salve. It nicks name is the old man and
lady tree, the branches are very gnarly in appearance like hand
Using the same method by adding acorn caps. This would work as a heart
tonic. Bark tea is used as a gargle to relieve a sore throat. Skin problems
such as rashes, irritation and swelling may be relieved with the application
of poultices or compresses made from the root bark or leaves. Oak has
been used in the treatment of cholera and gonorrhea.
They can be softened by immersing them in boiling water or steaming until
limp. If boiling water is not available, the leaves may be softened by
chewing on them until soft try not to crushing them too much. Apply the

leaves topically to the affected area as an antiseptic, soothing poultice to
reduce swelling, skin irritation or bleeding.

The tannin rich water has antiseptic and anti-viral properties. It may be
used as a wash to relieve irritations from rashes, minor burns, and poison
ivy. Fresh leaves may be gathered for first aid as needed. The inner bark is
the most useful medicinal part of the oak. It is bitter and astringent in taste.
The inner bark is best gathered in spring from roots protruding through the
ground. Dry it and store the bark in a cool dark place. Healers collect young
bur oak leaves and small tree for severe headaches, or headaches that feel
that your head has gnawing pain and eyes pain



Links & References

Doug Tallamy’s newest book The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees https://a.co/d/9r9cQJ7

Bur Oaks have been planted as a favored species in the “Restoration of Sunfish Lake Park” project. https://sminc-lake-elmo.org/adopt-a-tree/

place for notes

Scroll to Top