Quercus stellata

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Post oak
Houston campsite oak.jpg
The Houston Campsite Oak in Grapevine Springs Preserve, Coppell, Texas
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fagales
Family: Fagaceae
Genus: Quercus
Subgenus: Quercus subg. Quercus
Section: Quercus sect. Quercus
Q. stellata
Binomial name
Quercus stellata
Quercus stellata range map 1.png
Natural range of Quercus stellata
  • Quercus alba var. minor Marshall
  • Quercus floridana Shuttlew. ex A.DC.
  • Quercus fusca Raf.
  • Quercus gonoloba Raf.
  • Quercus heteroloba Raf.
  • Quercus lobulata Sol. ex Sm.
  • Quercus minor (Marshall) Sarg.
  • Quercus obtusiloba Michx.
  • Quercus villosa Walter

Quercus stellata, the post oak or iron oak, is a North American species of oak in the white oak section. It is a slow-growing oak that lives in dry areas on the edges of fields, tops of ridges also grows in poor soils, and is resistant to rot, fire, and drought. Interbreeding occurs among white oaks, thus many hybrid species combinations occur.


Q. stellata is native to the eastern and central United States, and found along the east coast from Massachusetts to Florida, and as far inland as Nebraska.[3] It is identifiable by the rounded cross-like shape formed by the leaf lobes and hairy underside of the leaves.


1812 illustration[4]

Post oak is a relatively small tree, typically 10–15 m (33–49 ft) tall and trunk 30–60 cm (12–24 in) in diameter, though occasional specimens reach 30 m (98 ft) tall and 140 cm (55 in) in diameter. The leaves have a very distinctive shape, with three perpendicular terminal lobes, shaped much like a Maltese cross. They are leathery, and tomentose (densely short-hairy) beneath. The branching pattern of this tree often gives it a rugged appearance. The acorns are 1.5–2 cm (0.59–0.79 in) long, and are mature in their first summer.[5]


The specific epithet stellata is Latin for "star";[6] it is named this because the trichome hairs on the bottom of the leaves are stellate[5] or star-shaped. Several variants of Q. stellata were named by American botanist Charles Sprague Sargent. The variety most recognised by the US Forest Service is Q. stellata var. paludosa Sarg (delta post oak)[7]


Varieties include:[8]

  • var. margarettiae (Ashe) Sarg.
  • var. paludosa Sarg.
  • var. boyntonii (Beadle) Sarg.
  • var. anomala Sarg.
  • var. attenuata Sarg.
  • var. araniosa Sarg.
  • var. palmeri Sarg.
  • var. parviloba Sarg.
  • var. rufescens Sarg.


Hybrid Name Q. stellata x <sp.>
Q. × stelloides E. J. Palmer Q . prinoides
Q. × mahloni E. J. Palmer Q . sinuata var. breviloba
Q. × pseudomargaretta Trelease Q . margaretta
Q. × sterretti Trelease Q . lyrata
Q. × macnabiana Sudworth Q . sinuata
Q. × guadalupensis Sargent Q . sinuata
Q . × fernowi Trelease Q . alba
Q. × bernardensis W. Wolf Q . montana

Similarity to Quercus alba[edit]

Both Quercus stellata and Q. alba are in a section of Quercus called the white oaks.[9] In the white oak section, Q. stellata is a sister taxon with Quercus alba.[10] Q. stellata is sold and distributed as white oak. One identifiable difference between the two trees is that Q. stellata is 'hairy' on the underside of the leaf.[11]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Q. stellata is found in Southeastern United States, in the coast states from Massachusetts, to Texas, and inland to Iowa. In Texas, the Post Oak Savannah extends down to, and ends in, far northwestern Atascosa county where a fairly dense population exists. Normally found at the edge of a forest, it typically grows in dry, sandy areas, deficient of nutrients.[11]


Because of its ability to grow in dry sites, attractive crown, and strong horizontal branches, it is used in urban forestry. It is resistant to decay, so it is used for railroad ties, siding, planks, construction timbers, stair risers and treads, flooring, pulp, veneer, particle board, fuel, and its namesake fence posts. It is used for wildlife food for deer, turkeys, squirrels, and other rodents, but because the nuts contain tannin, it is toxic to cattle.[7] It is one of the most common types of wood used for Central Texas barbecue.

Fire ecology[edit]

Q. stellata has the ability to survive fires by having thicker bark. It is useful for fire surveys where the tree rings are used to get a fire history of an area. A tree ring survey of 36 trees in Illinois provided a 226-year tree ring record that indicated that many Q. stellata persisted through annual fire return intervals of 1.44 fires/year for over 100 years.[12]


  1. ^ Kenny, L.; Wenzell , K. (2015). "Quercus stellata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2015: e.T194236A2305500. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T194236A2305500.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Quercus stellata". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – via The Plant List.
  3. ^ "Quercus stellata". County-level distribution map from the North American Plant Atlas (NAPA). Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2014.
  4. ^ illustration from Histoire des arbres forestiers de l'Amérique septentrionale, considérés principalement sous les rapports de leur usages dans les arts et de leur introduction dans le commerce ... Par F.s André-Michaux. Paris, L. Haussmann,1812-13. François André Michaux (book author), Pierre-Joseph Redouté (illustrator), Renard (engraver)
  5. ^ a b c Nixon, Kevin C. (1997). "Quercus stellata". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). 3. New York and Oxford – via eFloras.org, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  6. ^ Mahoney, Kevin D. "Latin Definition for: stellatus, stellata, stellatum (ID: 35675) - Latin Dictionary and Grammar Resources - Latdict". latin-dictionary.net. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  7. ^ a b Stransky, John J. "Quercus stellata Wangenh.--post oak." Silvics of North America 2 (1990): 738-743.
  8. ^ "Tropicos - quercus stellata Search". www.tropicos.org. Retrieved 2016-11-10.
  9. ^ Nixon, KC (1993-01-01). "Infrageneric classification of Quercus (Fagaceae) and typification of sectional names" (PDF). Annales des Sciences Forestières. 50 (Supplement): 25s–34s. doi:10.1051/forest:19930701. ISSN 0003-4312.
  10. ^ Whittemore, A. T.; Schaal, B. A. (1991-03-15). "Interspecific gene flow in sympatric oaks". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 88 (6): 2540–2544. Bibcode:1991PNAS...88.2540W. doi:10.1073/pnas.88.6.2540. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 51268. PMID 11607170.
  11. ^ a b Stein, John D., Denise Binion, and R. E. Acciavatti. "Field guide to native oak species of eastern North America." (2003): 96-97.
  12. ^ McClain, William E.; Esker, Terry L.; Edgin, Bob R.; Spyreas, Greg; Ebinger, John E. (2010-12-01). "Fire History of a Post Oak (Quercus stellata Wang.) Woodland in Hamilton County, Illinois". Castanea. 75 (4): 461–474. doi:10.2179/09-007.1. ISSN 0008-7475. S2CID 86503496. ProQuest 854839641.

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