Finding Oaks

Karl VonBerg Wednesday, 14 October 2020

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Do you want acorns for deer and turkey? Or do you just like oak trees?

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Acorns! (Image by Michael Kauer from Pixabay)

Whether you enjoy watching wildlife, hunting, or you just like oak trees, finding them can be hard, especially when they are small.

However, finding oaks becomes a lot easier when you know the timing related to leaf color change and loss for different deciduous tree species. I have talked with landowners that have hundreds of acres and only several dozen oaks (some of which are only 6 feet tall) and yet they know right where they are.

So, how can you find your oaks? It’s as simple as looking at the right time and knowing what you are looking for.

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In this late October picture of a hillside, the deciduous trees with leaves on are the oaks. They stand out! That makes finding them easy.

Here are the keys:

Oaks tend to hold on to their leaves longer than most other tree species:

  • They are still on the tree in late October and early November.
  • Get out when the maples (except Norway maple), ashes, birches, basswoods, and hickories have lost their leaves and look around. You can start seeing your oak trees.
  • To mark the oak tree, get some bright-colored flagging (pink or blue stands out the best) and tie it around the trunk. That way you can find it any time of year. 

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Look for trees with their leaves on in late October and early November.

Color:

  • Look for orange to reddish-purple leaves. Red oaks are the most common oaks in New York State, and most often, they have orange, red, or purple leaves as a fall color.
  • In early fall, the oak leaves may still be green, while other trees have changed color or lost their leaves.
  • Big-toothed aspen (bright yellow leaves) and beech (green or yellow leaves) may still have their leaves on later in the fall.

Leaf shape:

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You can tell if it is an oak tree by its leaf shape. Binoculars can help you see leaf shape high in the tree (Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay).

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Here are some oaks clearly standing out across a small field area.

You can even find small oak seedlings on the ground, like the one below: 

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Here is a small purple-leaved red oak seedling. Flag it so you don’t lose it!

Now that you have found your oak trees, you will probably want to keep them healthy and growing. In an upcoming blog, I will show you how to do that. Then I will cover how to protect seedlings from deer so they can grow to be the acorn producers you want.

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