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Natural Highlights: Shumard Oak

Shumard Oaks (Quercus shumardii) were among the tree species planted during our Annual Tree Planting event on Feb.16th. 

Oaks and hickories are the dominant tree species in the upland forests of the Midsouth and there are numerous species of both groups which can be difficult to tell apart.  In general, oaks can be grouped into "red oaks" which have sharply pointed lobes on their leaves and "white oaks" which have rounded lobes.  The Shumard Oak is one of the red oaks.  It can grow to be 40-60 feet tall and it has attractive fall color.  Also, like all oaks, the Shumard provides multiple benefits to wildlife:  shelter and nesting sites in its branches, trunk, and roots; acorns for mammals and birds; numerous species of insects utliziling various parts of the tree which in turn support nesting birds and other species in higher trophic levels of the food web. 

Research done by Dr. Doug Tallamy and his students has focused on the diversity and abundance of caterpillars and found that oak trees support an average of 534 kinds of caterpillars (butterflies and moths), compared to 32 for a sweetgum tree (Tallamy, 2009. Bringing Nature Home).  For birds trying to raise a clutch of hungry nestlings, caterpillars are important food items because they are full of fat and protein, and their soft bodies won't hurt the delicate throat of a baby bird.  It take thousands of caterpillars to raise one nestful of baby chickadees, which highlights the critical role of native plants and especially oak trees, including the Shumard Oak, in sustaining bird populations.  The Shumard Oak is a host tree for many moth species and butterfly species which include Banded Hairstreak, Edward's Hairstreak, Gray Hairstreak, White-M Hairstreak, Horace's Duskywing and Juvenal's Duskywing.  

For more information on the Shumard Oak, use the following links:

https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=qush

https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/quercus-shumardii/

For the Bringing Nature Home website:  http://www.bringingnaturehome.net/

Posted by Cathy Justis at 1:59 PM