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Turkey oak facts for kids

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Turkey oak
American turkey oak foliage
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Quercus laevis range map 1.png
Quercus laevis native range
  • Quercus catesbaei Michx.
  • Quercus catesbaei f. rappii (Trel.) A.Camus
  • Quercus laevis f. lineariloba Trel.
  • Quercus laevis f. rappii Trel.

Quercus laevis, the turkey oak, is a member of the red oak group of oaks. It is native to the southeastern United States, occurring on the coastal plain from Virginia south to central Florida, and west to southeast Louisiana. There they mingle with many tropical trees such as mature coconut palms and large Cuban Laurel (Ficus) trees. The name turkey oak derives from the resemblance of the leaves to a turkey's foot. A Turkish and southern European species Quercus cerris is also commonly referred to as Turkey oak, so Quercus laevis is sometimes referred to as American turkey oak to distinguish it from the European species.

Turkey oak trees

Quercus laevis is a small tree, sometimes shrubby, typically only 8–10 metres (26–33 ft) tall, though occasionally reaching 28 metres (92 ft). The leaves are variable in size, mostly 10–17 centimetres (3.9–6.7 in) long but occasionally just 8 centimetres (3.1 in) or as much as 30 centimetres (12 in) long. They have 3–7 slender lobes, deeply incised between the lobes, each lobe with 1–3 bristle teeth at the tip. The leaves turn red in Autumn. The acorns are about 20–25 millimetres (0.79–0.98 in) long, and, like other red oaks, take 18 months to mature.

Quercus laevis-1
A stand of turkey oaks growing on white sand near the banks of the Ocmulgee River in the state of Georgia

Turkey oak typically grows on poor, thin, dry, rocky or sandy soils where few other oaks other than blackjack oak (Q. marilandica) can thrive. It does not have the beautiful crown form of many oaks, but is nonetheless a valuable tree for growing on infertile, dry, sandy sites. The deeply lobed leaves are also attractive. It associates as an understory tree with longleaf pine and other pine stands on sandy knolls in the southeastern United States.

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