Bloom Description: Yellow catkins (male) Red spikes (female)
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Suggested Use: Shade Tree
Tolerate: Erosion and Clay Soils
Native to: Appalachia
The Overcup Oak is an obscure species of oak that is certainly worth noting as it has great landscape and wildlife value and should be planted with much more regularity.
The name Overcup Oak derives from their large acorn whose thick bur-like cap covers from 2/3 to almost all of the nut. The tree does not begin bearing acorns for several years which prevents the tree from appearing in great numbers as they are often out competed by the other members of the oak family. Furthermore, the acorns contain high fat content so they are highly desired by squirrels, deer, and wild turkey.
Unlike other trees in the oak family, the Overcup Oak’s lower branches are upswept preventing the tree from needing pruned to allow mowing or other uses beneath the canopy. The tree is typically found in the floodplains and so can handle having occasional water infiltration. The tree is noted for its arrow straight growth habit and broad rounded canopy crown. The leaves are dark green with a fuzzy white underside.
The tree is heavily underutilized and needs to obtain better recognition as they have almost no negative features. At the grave of General John Hunt Morgan in Lexington, Kentucky stands a magnificent specimen of the Overcup Oak. This particular tree is about 150 years old and produces acorns 4-5 inches in diameter.
Anyone familiar with the Becorn figures that David M. Bird produces will see the Overcup Oak Acorn used as the majority of heads for the little woodland creatures. If you are unfamiliar with the fine art pieces, be sure to check them out on the internet.
The Overcup Oak serves as a great wildlife tree. Aside from producing the high in fat acorns enjoyed by turkey, deer, and squirrels the tree serves as a great shelter and nesting tree for owls, song birds, bees, and squirrels. The Overcup Oak is a host plant to 477 species of caterpillars and moths. ■