Swamp White Oak

Full size Swamp White Oak

Missouri’s native swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) has some characteristics that make it especially attractive. A color difference between the shiny green upper and silvery white lower leaf surfaces causes flashes of white when the wind blows—hence the name “bicolor”. Another unique feature is that the tree’s bark peels away on its branches, making interesting patterns. And its sweet and edible acorns are attractively borne on very long stalks. Because they do not contain a lot of tannin, swamp white oaks acorns are a preferred food source for wildlife species. And although “swamp” is in its name and it tolerates poorly drained soil, it does not grow in swamps like bald cypress. That is a misnomer.


Swamp white oaks reach a height of 50 to 60 feet and deliver a deep shade. It is one of the species that comprise the Legacy Oaks that are taking the place of the pin oaks that have been removed from the Francis Quadrangle. For a good look at some very attractive specimens, look no farther than the Carnahan Quad to the south and across the street from Jesse Hall.

Swamp White Oak Features

Content by Chris Starbuck & Jan Wiese-Fales. Photos by Chris Starbuck