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A deciduous tree up to 80 ft high in the wild; young shoots glabrous. Leaves often crowded at the end of short twigs, extremely variable in shape, mostly obovate, tapered at the base and rounded or bluntish at the apex; some, however, are narrow-oblong, like those of Q. phellos, and entire; others have several shallow or deep lobes towards the apex; they vary from 11⁄2 to 4 in. long, and from 1⁄2 to 2 in. wide, and are of a pale green and glabrous on both surfaces except for tufts of down in the vein-axils beneath; stalk 1⁄10 to 1⁄4 in. long. Fruits usually solitary; acorn 1⁄2 in. broad and long, one-third enclosed in a broad, shallow, short-stalked cup with appressed scales.
Native of the southern United States; in cultivation 1723. It retains its leaves quite fresh until about the New Year. Its affinities are with Q. phellos, which, however, never has the broad, obovate or lobed leaves. In the southern United States it is popular as a shade tree for streets, etc. This oak must not be confounded with the ‘Black Jack oak’ – the Q. nigra of Wangenheim – a very different tree. (See Q. marilandica.)
There is a fine specimen of Q. nigra at Kew by the Isleworth Gate measuring 58 × 61⁄4 ft (1968). A tree in the Oak collection, pl. 1874, is 50 × 53⁄4 ft (1972). The only other large specimen recorded grows at Pylewell Park, Hants; it measures 52 × 83⁄4 ft at 51⁄2 ft (1968).
specimens: Kew, Isleworth Gate, cut back, 50 × 63⁄4 ft (1978) and, in Oak Collection, pl. 1874, 53 × 6 ft (1986); Windsor Great Park, pl. 1937, 54 × 53⁄4 ft and 50 × 33⁄4 ft (1978).