The Mystery Oak: Quercus shumardii Buckley at Buckhorn Island

P. M. Eckel

Missouri Botanical Garden

Res Botanica

Electronic publication: October 18, 2003

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The Mystery Oak: Quercus shumardii Buckley at Buckhorn Island


P. M. Eckel, Buffalo Museum of Science, June 19, 2002


Just last year (2001) in a fine floristic evaluation of a native wetland woods located in Niagara County (North Tonawanda), New York published in Clintonia by Shawn McCourt, provi­sional mention was made of a collection of Quercus shumardii, under the direction of NFBS member Carol Sweeney, a specialist in the study of the genus Quercus. The specimen was later verified by R. J. Jensen as Shumard Oak and she duly published her find in the NYFA newsletter. This tree has recently been regarded as absent from New York State by Mitchell (1997) and Jensen (1997), although known from peninsular Niagara (Ontario) (Waldron 1982 & etc.). Dr. Sweeney shared her find with myself and Richard Zander of the Clinton Herbarium. From the experience gained in hunting for the species at Klydel, I found additional Shumard oaks in Buck­horn Island State Park on the East-West River Park­way east of the I-90 expressway, their identity verified also by Dr. Jensen. As in Klydel woods the trees were associated with a soil regime that is wet in spring, dry in autumn, with sparse vegetation, that mostly graminoids, with Lindera benzoin the dominant shrub species. The woods is also charac­terized by numerous mature individuals of Carya laciniosa, C. ovata, C. glabra, C. cordiformis, Quercus palustris, Q. bicolor, Q. macrocarpa with scattered individuals of Fraxinus pensylvanica, Ulmus americana, and occasional Acer rubrum and A. saccharinum.


Quercus shumardii at this site, as at Klydel, is somewhat atypical in its very red coloration (not yellowish gray in twigs and terminal buds). Tomentum in leaf axils may or may not be a good character in our area, due to the genetic contri-butions of conspicuously hairy Quercus velutina to both Q. rubra and Q. shumardii in this northern part of the ranges of these oaks. The Pin Oak (Q. palustris) was for me the most difficult to distinguish from Shumard Oak at both Klydel and Buck­horn. Pin Oak usually has a skirt of branches coming out of the trunk starting at ground level; it has fewer lobes (to around 7) whereas both Red and Shumard Oak have more: 9 to 11 lobes. The acorns of Pin Oak are very uniform in size: small, their caps as thin and flat as a dime. Acorns of Shumard and Red Oak are larger and variable with bigger, deeper caps. Leaves of Red Oak are distinguished by their dull (not shiny) upper surface, by being long-rectangular in outline with lobes that are very shallow. Shumard Oak leaves are shiny (as is Pin Oak) with lobes as deep as long-rectangular Black Oak (Quercus velutina which has completely tan-hairy buds) and Pin Oak. Very many of the variable leaves of Shumard Oak are square to short-rectangular in outline, many with a little "bow-tie" pair of lobes at the leaf base. Another curiosity is that in numerous leaves the empty space between the lobes is 0-shaped (a closed loop) whereas in the other species it is U-shaped (open at the top).


Although Buckhorn has a good representation of a Red-Silver Maple swamp woods in the east section of the park on the north side of the East-West River Pkwy, the seasonally wet woods in which Shumard Oak was found on the south side of the Parkway have the same vegetational character as Klydel woods and the two are probably ecologically related. A similar Oak-Hickory wet woods occurs on Navy Island, Ontario, where it is likely that Shumard Oak may also be found.


Grateful acknowledgement is made to Carol Sweeney for drawing attention to this most inter­esting tree, and to Richard Jensen for kindly verifying the Buckhorn specimen during the excitement of final exam week, 2002.


Jensen, Richard J. 1997. Quercus Linnaeus sect. Lobatae Loudon. In Flora of North America. Flora of North America Editorial Committee. Oxford University Press. pp. 447-468.


McCourt, Shawn C. 2001a. The flora and ecology of Klydel woods, a wetland forest in North Tona­wanda, NY. Part I. Clintonia Vol. 16 (3) pp.1-4.


McCourt, Shawn C. 2001b. The flora and ecology of Klydel woods, a wetland forest in North Tonawanda, NY. Part II. Clintonia Vol. 16 (4) pp.7-10.


Mitchell, Richard S. & Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. N.Y. St. Mus. Bull. 490.


Sweeney, Carol R. 2001. Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii Buckley) Discovered in Western New York. New York Flora Association Newsletter. 12(4):pp. 3-4.


Waldron, G. E. 1982. Status report on Shumard oak, Quercus shumardii (Fasgaceae). Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Canadian Wildlife Service. Ottawa. 22 pp. Unpublished.


Waldron, G. E. 1983. Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii) new to Ontario. Plant Press 1:54.


Waldron, G. E. 1987. Quercus shumardii Buckl. (Fagaceae) Atlas of the Rare Vascular Plants of Ontario. National Museum of Natural Sciences, Ottawa. (looseleaf).


Waldron, D. E. et al. 1987. Shumard oak, Quercus shumardii, in Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 101(4): 532-538.



* Originally published as Eckel, P. M. 2002. The mystery oak: Quercus shumardii Buckley at Buckhorn Island. Clintonia 17(4): 8. Reprinted with kind permission of Irene Wingerter, Editor, and the Board of the Niagara Frontier Botanical Society.