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Bartram oak

22 July 2021

Bartram oak (Quercus heterophylla) is a tree of the Fagaceae family. It was named in memory of one of the first American botanists, John Bartram (1699-1777) who founded the first botanical garden of the new continent, Kingsessing, near Philadelphia *.

A deciduous tree, the Bartram oak can reach 30 meters in height and exceed one meter in diameter at the trunk. Its foliage is polymorphic although one type of leaf often dominates on a tree. The blade may be oblong lanceolate (spear-shaped) and measured from 10 to 18 cm long for 2.4 to 3 cm wide or obovate ** and measured from 7 to 15 cm long for 3 to 8 cm wide. At bud break, both sides of the leaves are hairy. The acorns of Bartram oak, about 1.2 cm long and 0.8 to 1 cm wide, are almost ovoid and bear a few hairs at the apex before maturity, acquired within two years. The cups are generally hemispherical and have fairly widely spaced scales.


Geographical distribution of Bartram oak


A natural hybrid of Quercus phellos and Quercus rubra, the Bartram oak arises in places where the two species coexist. The natural range of Bartram Oak extends from the central northeastern United States of America: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas.


Use of Bartram oak


Bartram oak is an ornamental species appreciated for its beautiful autumnal colors ranging from yellow to scarlet red. The tree appreciates all cool soil as long as it is sufficiently watery and not too rich in limestone.


Special features of Bartram oak


Bartram oak was introduced to Europe in the middle of the 18th century. The tree was first described by François-André Michaux in his History of the Forest Trees of North America (vol. 2, 1811). In France, the arboretums of Jonchère (Haute-Vienne) and Barres (Loiret) keep fine specimens of Bartram oak.


* George III elevated John Bartram in 1765 to the rank of King’s Botanist for North America. He is notably responsible for the introduction of the first azaleas and magnolias to England.

** Refers to leaves that are flat in shape and become wider towards the end, like an upturned oval.


Visuals 1 and 2 © D.R.

Visual 3 © Andreas Gomolka

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