Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Cherrybark Oak; One Of My Favorites

Cherrybark Oak is a bottomland hardwood, but it's not a swamp dweller; it likes upper bottomland, where the water gets off and there is a bit of perk to the soil.  In Southern Illinois it likes to grow on 109 Raccoon soil, which is classed as a wetland soil.  The flooding on 109 usually is short-term.  Cherrybark produces grade quality red oak lumber.  Pin oak, which also grows on 109 and other bottomland sites is never grade quality. 

One of the really neat qualities of bottomland trees is that they can be moved upslope, and they will still perform for you.  They can be mixed into an upland tree planting project to stretch your supplies of upland seedlings.   I planted this tree in 1991 or 1992 and the stump is 21" x 22".  That's darn good performance, and about double the growth I would expect from an upland oak on this site, which is 3B Hoyleton. 

We are just about at the northern range limit for cherrybark, which is shown on maps as far north as Mt. Carmel, Illinois on range maps.  It will grow farther north.  Jack Siefert of Purdue tested seed from all over the range near Indianapolis, and found that all of it grew well except for seed from right on the gulf coast.  The acorns on cherrybark are small and tasty to wildlife; much sweeter than other red oak acorns.  Crows, jays, turkeys, and squirrels all attack the seeds as they ripen.  Deer get the leftovers that make it to the ground.

Thirty-some years ago when the Conservation Reserve Program was starting, the Illinois nurseries produced a limited variety of trees.  White pine and shortleaf pine were staple items, along with white oak, northern red oak, black oak, pin oak, and black walnut.  We needed more trees and greater variety for all of the projects on retiring farm land, and bottomland trees filled the bill.  Union and Mason County Nurseries started cranking out cherrybark oak, swamp white oak, swamp chestnut oak, Shumard oak, bur oak, shellbark hickory, pecan, red maple, American sycamore, and baldcypress.  All of these bottomland trees will grow well on most of the sites we had to plant, whether they were upland or bottomland.  Cherrybark is my favorite, though.   It grows fast on any site from 109 and higher, it makes valuable wood, and provides food for wildlife.

1 comment:

Eaton Rapids Joe said...

Great post.

Thanks for writing.

I like reading the thoughts of folks who have been around the block a few times.