Quercus macrocarpa

Bur Oak


Bare Root Plants

Bur Oak is a stately tree, maintaining a conical shape throughout its juvenile years, and branching outward with domed foliage as it matures. The dark green leaves are glossy on top, with lighter gray-green undersides; an individual tree often displays a diverse amount of lobed leaf designs. As the leaves are budding out in early spring, the flowers (catkins) also emerge, ranging from light yellow-green to tan. The male catkins bloom first, with the tiny, cone-like female flowers opening later; this ensures that the tree is cross-pollinated by a different specimen. Once fertilized, the female flowers grow into green acorns which darken to a rich brown color when they are ripe. The fruits poke out from under a deeply fringed cap, whose spiny details give this tree its common name: Bur Oak. The bark is a muted gray or gray-brown, with thick, deeply ribbed furrows and corky ridges. This 3D effect covers the entire tree, from the sturdy trunk to the smallest leaf stems.

This tree is quite adaptable and will thrive in full or partial sun.  It is tolerant of most soil conditions, including both acidic and alkaline soils to some degree. Young plants do not withstand flooding as well as mature trees. Prune back during the dormant season to avoid introducing oak wilt to your tree.

Bur Oak produces the largest acorns of any oak. These draw Black Bear, Racoons, Mallards, and Greater Prairie Chickens. White-Tailed Deer will forage on the tender twigs and the leaves are a favored food for several types of Hairstreak butterfly caterpillars. And because of the broadspread limbs, this tree provides excellent nesting sites for Blue-Gray Gnatcathers, Summer Tanager, Yellow-Throated Vireo, and Red-Tailed and Swainson's Hawks.  Mature trees have cavities that are perfect dens for Squirrels and Screech Owls.

Other common names include Burr Oak, Mossycup Oak, and Over-Cup White Oak.

*Tree whips that are 1-2 years old, such as this Oak bare root, will benefit from being placed in tubing or behind wire caging to protect it in the early years from deer and other small mammals. Read more about How to Plant an Oak.

Live Plant Shipping

Spring Fall Age/Size
Dormant Bare Roots April/May October 1-2 years/12"

Quercus macrocarpa - Bur Oak

Map Key

Present in state
Present but introduced in county
Present and native in county; not rare
Not present in state
Present and native in county; rare
Species extirpated (historic)
State or county listed as noxious
Present in state; exotic

This map shows the native and introduced (adventive) range of this species. Given appropriate habitat and climate, native plants can be grown outside their range.

1 Question asked on Quercus macrocarpa

Do I need to plant two for cross pollination and acorn production?
Hi Constance. A single Bur Oak will produce acorns, although having a second tree nearby could increase those yields. This species takes many years (potentially several decades) to reach maturity and produce acorns.


Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some species don't need any pre-treatment to germinate, but some species have dormancy mechanisms that must be broken before the seed will germinate. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, read our BLOG: How to Germinate Native Seeds

Dormant Bare Root Plants

We dig plants when they are dormant from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. Some species go dormant in the summer and we can ship them July/August. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants

Potted Plants

3-packs and trays of 32, 38, or 50 plants leave our Midwest greenhouses based on species readiness (being well-rooted for transit) and order date; Spring shipping is typically early May through June, and Fall shipping is mid-August through September. Potted 3-packs and trays of 38 plugs are started from seed in the winter so are typically 3-4 months old when they ship. Trays of 32/50 plugs are usually overwintered so are 1 year old. Plant tray cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays of 38 and 50, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs and trays of 32; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting & care instructions are included with each order.

Download: Planting and Care of Potted Plants

*PLEASE NOTE: we are a mail order nursery and have no retail facilities, but you may pick up your order if prior arrangements are made. Pick up orders are subject to **MN Sales Tax.

Shipping & Handling Charges

SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
Retail SEED orders over $100.00 ship free!

Custom seed mixes or discounted seed sales over $100, add 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $9.00
over $50.00: 18% of the total plant cost. (For orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required.)

TOOLS and BOOKS have the shipping fee included in the cost of the product (within the contiguous US).

**We are required to collect state sales tax in certain states. Your state's eligibility and % will be calculated at checkout. MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders picked up at our MN location. Shipping & handling charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within 1-3 business days.

BARE ROOT PLANTS are shipped during optimal transplanting time: Spring (April-May) and Fall (Oct). Some ephemeral species are also available for summer shipping. Since our plants are field-grown, Nature sets the schedule each year as to when our season will begin and end. We fill all orders, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to the best of our ability depending on weather conditions beyond our control.

POTTED PLANTS (Trays of 32/38/50 plugs and 3-packs) typically begin shipping early May and go into June; shipping time is heavily dependent on all the species in your order being well-rooted. If winter-spring greenhouse growing conditions are favorable and all species are well-rooted at once, then we ship by order date (first come, first serve). We are a Midwest greenhouse, and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Pre-Designed Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically can't ship before early May. Earlier shipment requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

*We are unable to ship PLANTS (bare root or potted) outside the contiguous US or to CALIFORNIA due to regulations.


We ship using USPS, UPS and Spee Dee. UPS and Spee Dee are often used for expediting plant orders; they will not deliver to Post Office Box numbers, so please also include your street address if ordering plants. We send tracking numbers to your email address so please include it when you order.



Germination Code
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial
Soil Moisture
Medium, Medium-Dry, Dry
to 80 feet
Bloom Time
April, May, June
Bird Favorite: seeds, insects, fruit, nectar, nesting, perch
USDA Zones
Plant Spacing
Catalog Code