Nuttall Oak: New Name, Same Tree…Probably

— Written By and last updated by Jami Hooper
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I was recently informed by one of our Master Gardener℠ volunteers in Craven County that the botanical name for nuttall oak had been updated from Quercus nuttallii to Quercus texana. And according to the entry for nuttall oak in the North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox, the situation is a little more complicated than a simple name change. Through the years nuttall oak has also been known as Q. nuttallii var. cachensisQ. palustris f. nuttalliiQuercus shumardii subsp. texana; and Q. shumardii var. texana.
Oak identification can be a challenge, due to similarities in foliage between species; juvenile vs. mature foliage on the same tree; the tendency for many oak species to hybridize; and other factors. The images below do provide a few characteristics typically associated with nuttall oak. Specifically, 5 to 9 lobes (this leaf has 7); wide, rounded sinuses between the lobes; and tufts of hair in the axils of the veins on the leaf underside. Acorns and winter buds will provide additional ID features.
Aside from any ID and taxonomy challenges, nuttall oak is an excellent choice for North Carolina landscapes, particularly in the eastern end of the state.

November 29, Craven County. We should clarify that this leaf had 7 lobes earlier in the season.
The bristles at the tips of the lobes are typical for oaks in the red oak group.

Red leaf

Arrow points to one of the tufts of hairs (trichomes) on the leaf underside.