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The White Oak


The white oak has no rival for first place in the esteem of tree-lover and lumberman. Its broad, rounded dome, sturdy trunk, and strong arms (see illustration, page 38), and its wide-ranging roots enable a solitary tree to resist storms that destroy or maim other kinds. Strength and tenacity in the fibre of root and branch make it possible for individuals to live to a great age, far beyond the two cen turies required to bring it to maturity. Such trees stir within us a feeling of reverence and patriotism. They are patriarchs whose struggles typify the pioneer's indomitable resistance to forces that destroyed all but the strong.

White oak trees in the forest grow tall, lose their lower branches early, and lift but a small head to the sun. The logs, quarter-sawed, reveal the broad, gleaming "mir rors" that make a white oak table beautiful. The botanist calls these the medullary rays—thin, irregular plates of tissue-building cells, that extend out from the central pith, sometimes quite to the sap-wood, crowding between the wood fibres, which in the heart-wood are no longer alive. A slab will show only an edge of these mir rors. But any section from bark to pith will reveal them.

The pale brown wood of the white oak distinctly shows the narrow rings of annual growth. Each season begins with a coarse, porous band of "spring wood," followed by a narrower band of fine, close-grained "summer wood."

White oak is streaked with irregular, dark lines. These are the porous lines of spring wood, discolored by foreign matter. Count them, allow a year for each, and you know how long one white oak tree required to make an inch of wood.

The supreme moment in the white oak's year comes in spring, when the gray old tree wakes, the buds swell and cast off their brown scales, and the young leaves appear. The tree is veiled, not with a garment of green, but with a mist of rose and silver, each twig hung with soft limp velvety leaves, red-lined, and covered with a close mat of silky hairs. It is a spectacle that seems unreal, because it is so lovely and gone so soon. The protecting hairs and pigments disappear, and the green leafage takes its place, brightened by the yellow tassels o! the stamen flowers, and the growing season is on.

In autumn the pale-lined leaves of the white oak turn slowly to sombre violet and dull purplish tones. Clinging there, after the acorns have all fallen and been gathered by squirrels, the foliage fades into the gray of the bark and may persist until spring growth sets in.

wood, tree, spring and leaves