Bur Oak provides winter food for wildlife

Finding enough to eat in the winter and early spring can be very challenging for wildlife. Planting mast-producing trees can help provide a good food source for wildlife during that time of year.

Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) is native to central and eastern North America and grows to be 70 to 80 feet tall and two to three feet in diameter. It is a member of the white oak group, which means that its acorns mature in a single year and provide good food for wildlife.

Bur oak…

  • gets its name from its acorns, which have bristly husks.

  • can be separated from other oaks by its corky twigs and lobed leaves with narrow middles.

  • prefers moist but well-drained limestone soil, yet the tree is resistant to drought.

  • will easily grow in sandy plains, floodplain bottoms and uplands, and in all but the most southern reaches of the country.

  • was prevalent along the edge of the Great Plains because of its resistance to the annual fires that once raged across the region. Its thick bark protected it from the fires, allowing it to invade some of the grasslands of the Midwest and form vast, park-like stands.

  • acorns provide much-needed nourishment to deer, wild turkeys and other wildlife species in the fall, winter and spring months.

    "Bur oak should be planted during the winter," said Jerry Garver, NWTF Technical Committee representative and biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. "Plant bur oak in or around a field edge because oaks are not very tolerant of shade."

    Planting tips

    Planting seedlings that are only one to two years old increases their likelihood of survival. Installing tree shelters around the seedlings will also help to protect them and increase their survival and growth rate.

    Planting several species of oak together will make an area even better for wildlife by helping to assure that there are some acorns available even if one or more species have poor mast-production years.

    Material from the National Wild Turkey Federation.

    Visit the web site at www.nwtf.com