THE SAWTOOTH OAK, QUERCUS ACUTISSIMA, is often not recognized as an oak. It has a unique simple leaf, not at all like most oaks. Its leaves are oblong with a slightly serrated or bristle-like edge and a glossy green summer color. In mid-autumn the leaves turn bright yellow; the color can hold until early November.
HARDY IN USDA ZONES 5 THROUGH 9, it has a wide native range, and because of its favorable aesthetic qualities, it is becoming more available in the nursery trade. It makes an excellent medium-size shade tree and grows faster than many of the oaks. Average height in its native range is 40 to 60 feet; in a normal urban environment, you can expect about 40 feet when mature.
THE FRUIT OR ACORNS ON EACH OAK are as unique as the trees themselves. Fruit size, color characteristics of the cap, and ripening time are different from one oak to another. The Sawtooth oak’s acorn has a large cap, covering almost two-thirds of the fruit or nut. The bracts that form the cap surrounding the nut are like a beautiful curly head of hair that is perfectly styled. Unlike most oaks, the acorns of the Sawtooth oak ripen early in the fall and are an important early food source for wildlife as winter approaches.
EASY TO GROW, THE SAWTOOTH OAK can tolerate less-than-adequate environments, but it prefers well-drained, moderately acidic soil. It transplants well from container-grown stock and grows quickly with adequate rainfall or irrigation, and will transform into a beautiful spreading shade tree for any garden.
Shelly Nold is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.
ASK THE GARDENER
by Angie McManus
Can I cut a growth (the small stems that come out on the trunk of the tree) from an apple tree, and make it grow?
The most common method of propagating fruit trees is grafting. This is done by joining two varieties of trees. That means the top of the tree, also known as the scion, is different from the bottom or rootstock of the tree. So the top of your apple tree is the variety you purchased, but the lower part, below the graft union, a few inches above the base including the root system, is that of another apple.
Growers graft fruit trees for several reasons, the most important being that it makes the trees hardier because it can allow for optimal nutrients. Grafting can manipulate the size of the tree and make them more resistant to insect and disease problems.
The suckers growing from the base of your tree are coming up from the root system of another apple, not that of the apple tree you intend to grow. So taking cuttings from the suckers and trying to root them will not give you the same apple tree you initially purchased.
You can propagate your tree by taking semi-hardwood cuttings, but this method is not advantageous for fruit trees. Your tree will not be as productive or healthy as if it were grafted.
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