Image Credit: Prides Corner Farms
Quercus bicolor - Swamp White Oak

Quercus bicolor - Swamp White Oak

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Swamp White Oak
Quercus bicolor

Swamp white oak has a broad, rounded crown and dark, shiny green leaves. The fall color is yellow to reddish purple. Flowers attract pollen-seeking insects that attract spring migrating birds. Acorns mature in early fall providing food for many species. This oak has surprisingly good drought resistance.

  • Grows relatively fast for an oak
  • Pollen and emerging leaves attract many insects
  • Insect-eating birds visit the tree for food
  • Acorns are a major food source for many critters
  • Larval food source for many butterflies

Native Range

Swamp forests and floodplains; Maine and southern Quebec to Minnesota south to Missouri, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Map Credit: The Biota of North America 
Map Key: Green (native), Teal (native, adventive), Blue (present), Yellow (present & rare), Red (extinct)


Despite the name Swamp White Oak, the tree prefers occasionally saturated soils rather than continually flooded soil. The leaves displaying both green and silver give the tree its bicolor epithet. 

Like all Oaks, Quercus bicolor is a host plant to hundreds of different moth and butterfly species meaning that the life cycle of these hosted insects cannot be completed without this tree.  Specifically, the larva or caterpillar stage of these moths and butterflies, must feed specifically on Quercus bicolor foliage in order to reach adulthood.  This means that butterflies like hairstreaks and dusky wings along with a menagerie of moths including clymene, imperial and cecropia moths among many others will find this tree if you plant it.


Grows well in average, moist, well-drained, or occasionally wet acidic soil.

Mature Size: 50-60'T x 50-60'W

Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Sun Exposure: Full sun


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    American Beauties Offer Solution Based Plant Collections to Help you Choose

    Quick Tips for Choosing Plants:

    • Planting a variety of native trees, shrubs, perennials and vines increases biodiversity and gives wildlife a source for food, cover and nesting
    • Choose a mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees so birds and other wildlife will always be able to find shelter
    • Plant trees and large shrubs where they will block winter winds from the house and shade it in summer, that will save energy and lower your carbon footprint
    • Try your best to buy plants that were grown locally, your independent garden center will be your best bet
    • Think about ultimate height and width of the plant you choose, make sure it will fit the space you have for it when it's reached maturity
    • Plant nectar plants in groups, to attract butterflies and other beneficial insects more easily
    • Ask for help if you need it. Most garden centers either have a landscape designer on staff or they can give you a reference of a designer that is adept at native plant wildlife gardening. There will be upfront costs but they are small when compared to having to redo a landscape that wasn't what you really wanted

    Our Plant Tags Hold the Secrets to Success

    Choosing the right plants for your garden can seem like a daunting task but we’re here to help. Our horticulturists have spent a considerable amount of time researching and writing our beautiful, American Beauties plant tags to help you be successful. First of all, when you see an American Beauties branded pot at your garden center you can be confident that the plant is native to your area and a responsible choice. 

    When you look at our tag you’ll find information about the plants natural habitat. That will give you a clue to how it will work in your backyard. For instance if the plant is naturally founded and moist, shade and you have full sun, it’s not the plant for you. The “Features” section gives you an overview or plant description so you’ll know what to expect. While the “Benefits” section talks about the plants strong suits and how the plant will benefit wildlife. 

    A Special Note About Exposure

    Full sun: Prefers six or more hours of direct sunshine a day
    Partial shade: Thrives in three to six hours of daily sunshine
    Shade: Generally does well with less than three hours of sun per day. Having said that even shade loving plants will struggle in extremely deep shade.


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