by Aggie Tuden, Medford Tree Warden
As one of the most widely planted oaks in our urban landscapes, Pin oak (Quercus palustris) is a tree native to North America that graces many areas around Medford, year-round.
Pin oak has several easy-to-identify characteristics. A fast grower, Pin oak can reach 60 to 70 feet in height with a spread of 25 to 40 feet. It has a pyramidal shape with a single central trunk from ground to tip. But perhaps the most easily recognizable clue for Pin oak’s identification is its distinctive branching habit: upper branches point up, middle branches are horizontal and lower branches swoop downward.
Leaves of the Pin oak are a glossy dark green in summer, changing to bronze, red or brown in fall. Pin oaks, especially younger ones, keep their leaves far into winter. While some people consider their late winter leaves unsightly, others enjoy the contrast they make against snow or a crisp blue sky, or even the rustling sound the leaves make on a breezy winter day.
Pin oak produces acorns, which are small and round, about ½ inch in diameter, with a scaly cap. The tree provides food and shelter for wildlife including song birds, wild turkeys, deer, squirrels and ducks.
Here in Medford, you’ll find mature Pin oaks along Mystic Valley Parkway near the Condon Shell and down toward the Arlington line. Many have had lower limbs removed, which is a common practice for urban oaks and not harmful to the trees when done correctly. Careful pruning of low limbs allows people to walk under or pause to enjoy shade of these great trees more comfortably, opens up pleasant views of our Mystic River, and gives clearer and safer sight lines to passing motorists.
The Pin oak in the photo is growing strongly along a path near Hormel Stadium, just off Route 16. Enjoy it and other lovely Pin oaks here in Medford!