A Forager's Guide to Acorn and Oak Tree Types

Feeling squirrely? Then go gather some acorns! This guide to oak tree types can help you find the varieties you'll like most.

| September/October 1984

acorns and oak tree types - illustration of acorns and oak leaves

Even if your knowledge of oak tree types is a little sketchy, when the nuts mature and fall a wide bounty will be there for the gathering.

Illustration by Fotolia/oleg7799

Maybe you think, "If you've seen one acorn you' seen them all." Well, as the following forager's guide should make clear, there are over two dozen oak tree types. Which means there are just as many types of acorns (and one type from a tree that in spite of its name technically isn’t an oak). For culinary purposes, the nuts can be divided into two categories: sweet acorns and bitter acorns.

Sweet Acorns

Ballota Oak (Quercus ilex var. rotundifolia): A medium-size evergreen oak from southwestern Europe and northern Africa with large, edible acorns that take two years to mature.

Bur Oak (Q. macrocarpa): A medium-size, drought-resistant deciduous tree found in the mideastern U.S., Canada, and south to Texas. This slow-grower prefers limestone soils and is used commercially for its wood. The 2" acorns mature in one season, and an acorn-producing cultivar, Q.m. Ashworth, is available commercially.

Chestnut Oak (Q. prinus): A medium-size tree of the eastern U.S. that's tolerant of a wide range of soils and sites. This slow-grower produces quality wood and 1" to 1 1/2" acorns that mature in one season.

Chinquapin Oak (Q. muehlenbergii): A widely distributed medium-size deciduous tree of the Midwest and eastern U.S. that prefers alkaline soil. The chinquapin grows rapidly, has very durable wood, and produces 1" acorns in one season.

Dwarf Chinquapin Oak (Q. prinoides): A small tree or shrub of the eastern U.S. that's common to dry, rocky slopes. The 1" acorns mature in one season.

Emory Oak (Q. emoryi): A small to medium-size tree of the southwestern U.S. Its sweet acorns take one year to mature.

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!