Native Plant of the Month: Quercus pagoda (Cherrybark oak)
Cherrybark oak is a relatively fast growing, long-lived large deciduous tree with attractive dark bark broken into shallow longitudinal fissures and cross cracks similar to a mature Black cherry (Prunus serotina). Leaves are 6-8 inches long by 4-6 inches wide with 7-11 lobes, dark glossy green above and hairy below. Acorns are produced every other year and are 1/2 inch long by 3/8 inch wide. It is an excellent shade tree with good fall color growing 60’ x 40’ average. Cherrybark oak (a red oak) prefers loamy or sandy soils and is found along streams in the coastal plains and is a common bottomland hardwood species. Oaks are vital food and shelter sources for birds and wildlife. Squirrels, racoons, and deer eat the acorns. Doug Tallamy considers the genus Quercus to be one of the most important keystone plant groups in North America because it supports hundreds of caterpillar species. Caterpillars, in turn, support hundreds of diverse species of birds, both residents and migrants. Louisiana is an important migration pathway linking winter habitats in South and Central America to nesting grounds in the northern United States. In the fall, when migrating birds fly south across the Gulf of Mexico, they need to stop in Louisiana and fatten up before making that long flight. And in spring, when nature calls them to their nesting grounds, birds need the shelter and food available in southern Louisiana. So don’t spray those caterpillars, leave them for the birds! Look for Cherrybark and other oaks on our walk through Moncus Park! Enjoy!