Tree identification: Oaks

Are you hoping to find an oak tree, but don’t know how to identify it? Don’t worry! With just a few simple steps, you can learn how to easily spot the features of an oak tree. Oak trees are one of the most recognizable and important components of our forests – they provide us with lumber and other products and animals with food and protection.

This guide will give you all the tools necessary to understand exactly what separates oaks from other types of trees, allowing you to feel confident in your identification skills.

There are several species of oak trees in the United States

In the United States, there are 60 types of native oak species. Common native oak species in Missouri include:

  • White oak
  • Burr oak
  • Post oak
  • Northern red oak
  • Pin oak
  • Shingle oak

Oak trees are characterized by their sturdy trunks and intricate branching patterns that stretch out into a canopy of leaves that makes it perfect as a shade tree. They can easily reach heights of 70 feet or more with a clear trunk of up to 30 feet or more. In their native environment, they can live well over 100 years. Trees grown in city environments are often smaller and live a shorter time.


When it comes to recognizing an oak tree, the shape and pattern of its leaves hold the key. Oak leaves are characterized by their distinct “lobe and sinus” pattern, which sets them apart from other tree species. Leaves are longer than they are wide, with five or six of these deep, rounded lobes and short stalks.

Note that different species of oaks have different leaf shape. There are two broad categories of oak trees: the white oak group, and the red oak group (sometimes called the black oak group). Trees in the white group have rounded lobes, while trees in the red oak group have pointed lobes.  For example, the northern red oak, pin oak, and shingle oak are in the red oak group (pointed lobes); while white oak, post oak and burr oak are in the white oak group. Since oak trees are deciduous, their leaves will be shed annually.


Oak trees has many distinctive features, one of which being their bark. As young saplings, their bark appears smooth and silvery-brown, giving them a striking appearance. However, as they mature, their bark undergoes an incredible transformation. The once smooth surface begins to harden, and deep grooves and ridges begin to form, giving the tree a unique and distinguished character. The grey, scaly bark ultimately gives the oak tree a rugged look.


The fruit of oak trees are acorns. These nuts are characterized by a bumpy “cap” and a smooth, pointed bottom. White oaks have acorns that are a pale-grey color while red oaks have a reddish-brown color.

Identify oaks on your property with help from Hansen’s

Need help identifying the trees on your property? Hansen’s Tree Service can help!

With a tree inventory, we will come to your home and identify not only what trees you have, but their location and care needs. This is critical information to have as it can help you budget for tree care, especially if your tree is at risk for a specific disease or pest.

Hansen’s Tree Service is equipped to take inventory of and assess your trees, be it commercial or residential. We are highly experienced, insured, and knowledgeable with two Master Arborists on staff. Take the time to schedule a tree inventory with an ISA-Certified arborist at Hansen’s Tree Service.

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