Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1205 Quercus imbricaria

Common Names: shingle oak, northern laurel oak Family: Fagaceae (beech Family)
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shingle oak
The shingle oak is a good choice for home and urban landscapes throughout the mid-western and upper south regions of the United States.


Shingle oak is a smallish oak only occasionally getting more than 50-60 ft (15-20 m) tall. Under ideal growing conditions however, shingle oak has been known to get 80-100 ft (24-30 m) tall, and the National Champion in Hamilton, Ohio, is 117 ft (35.1 m) tall with a crown spread of 88 ft (26.4 m).

A mature shingle oak has a broad open crown consisting of many horizontal branches, and a straight trunk that is often without branches for half its length. Shingle oaks look a lot like the laurel oaks (Quercus hemisphaerica) of the southeastern US Coastal Plain. The leaves are without lobes or marginal teeth but have slightly wavy margins and a bristle on the tip. They are oblong to lance shaped, 4-6 in (10-15 cm) long and 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide at the middle. The leaves are similar to those of both laurel oak and willow oak (Q. phellos), but are longer and wider, and gray-pubescent on their undersides. The acorns have a scaly cup that encloses about one-third of the chestnut brown (sometimes striped) nut, which is almost spherical and about a half to three-quarters of an inch (12-18 mm) long. Shingle oak is a member of the red oak group, whose acorns take two seasons to ripen.


Quercus imbricaria, or shingle oak, occurs in the north-central US. Its distribution includes most of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and western Pennsylvania, west to eastern Kansas and northern Arkansas, and south to northern Alabama and Georgia. Shingle oak is one of the most abundant oaks in the Ohio River Valley. This is typically a lowland oak, occurring on moist hillsides and fertile river bottoms. It attains its greatest size in bottomlands and on moist hillsides in Illinois and Indiana. Shingle oak does not occur in the mountains, but can be found at moderate elevations up to 2000 ft (600 m) in the western Appalachian foothills.


Light: Foresters consider the shingle oak to be moderately intolerant (of shade). Like most oaks, this one does best in full sun. Moisture: In the wild, shingle oak attains its greatest size on moist, fertile soils but can be grown in any well drained soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 8. With selection of appropriate genetic material, shingle oak should be adaptable from zone 4b to 9a. Propagation: Plant acorns outside when ripe in autumn and expect germination in spring.

shingle oak acorns and foliage
Like other members of the red Oak group, the shingle oak's acorns take two years to mature.


Shingle oak makes a nice shade tree. It is fairly fast growing and not too big for the average home landscape. It has a nice symmetrical form and shiny dark green leaves that turn yellowish to reddish brown in autumn, often drying and remaining on the tree until spring. Shingle oak does best in acidic soils but is relatively tolerant of calcareous or limey soils as well, and is tolerant of urban conditions. Shingle oak is widely used as a street tree and in public parks in the Midwest.

The wood of single oak was formerly much used for making shingles and clapboards. Otherwise, the wood has general construction uses and is similar to, and marketed with, red oak. Where shingle oaks are common, the acorns are an important food for wild turkeys, ducks, white-tailed deer, and squirrels.


The cabins of early settlers in the Midwest were often completely covered with split shingles made from the wood of shingle oak. When he saw those cabins in the late 18th century, the French explorer and botanist Andre Micheaux gave the tree the specific name imbricaria, which means overlapping.

The oaks are often divided into two groups. Members of the red oak group have leaves that are entire, toothed or have pointed lobes with bristles on their tips, and bitter acorns which take two years to mature. Members of the white oak group have leaves that are entire, toothed or have rounded lobes, but without bristles on their tips, and their acorns, which are not bitter, mature in just one season.

Steve Christman 12/7/13

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Quercus species profiled on Floridata:

Quercus acutissima

( sawtooth oak )

Quercus alba

( white oak )

Quercus bicolor

( swamp white oak )

Quercus cerris

( Turkish oak, Turkey oak )

Quercus coccinea

( scarlet oak )

Quercus falcata

( southern red oak, Spanish oak )

Quercus geminata

( sand live oak )

Quercus hemisphaerica

( laurel oak, upland laurel oak, damn laurel oak )

Quercus imbricaria

( shingle oak, northern laurel oak )

Quercus laevis

( turkey oak, blackjack oak )

Quercus macrocarpa

( bur oak, mossycup oak )

Quercus michauxii

( swamp chestnut oak, basket oak, cow oak )

Quercus muehlenbergii

( chinkapin oak, yellow chestnut oak, chinquapin oak, yellow oak )

Quercus nigra

( water oak, spotted oak, possum oak )

Quercus nuttallii

( nuttall oak )

Quercus palustris

( pin oak, Spanish oak, swamp oak )

Quercus phellos

( willow oak )

Quercus prinus

( chestnut oak,rock chestnut oak,rock oak,basket oak,tanbark oak )

Quercus robur

( English oak, pedunculate oak, truffle oak )

Quercus rubra

( northern red oak )

Quercus shumardii

( Shumard oak, Shumard red oak )

Quercus velutina

( black oak, quercitron oak, yellowbark oak, yellow oak )

Quercus virginiana

( live oak )

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