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collage of Swamp White Oak and Bur Oak

Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) vs. Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

Updated March 3rd, 2022

Bur oak and swamp white oak are visually similar and can occur in the same habitat where their ranges overlap. However, certain key characteristics of bark, leaves, and acorns can usually distinguish them. Swamp white oak is usually only found on moist sites, whereas bur oak can also occur on dry uplands. Bur oak prefers calcium-rich soils, whereas swamp white oak is more tolerant of acidic soils. These two species can hybridize and intergrade, so it may not be possible to identify all individuals.

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