OAK TREES – (Quercus L.)
Having an Oak Hardwood Floor is probably the most American thing you can do in your home. The Oak Tree is America’s National Tree. It’s only logical that you would want a white oak or red oak floor in your home. Especially one from Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring!
Oak was voted the national tree in 2004 and for very good reason, they form the most important and abundant group of hardwood trees in North America. Oak trees are very symbolic of the United States, they have great strength, diversity and beauty. There are some 60 species in the US, mostly in the eastern part of the US. Oak is very strong, hard and tough with good working characteristics.
Oak species grow very well in western PA and we are able to create stunning wood floors thanks to them. I figured in honor of Independence Day this week it would be fun to share some more information about our National Tree.
Oaks produce acorns and their chances of become a tree are amazingly slim, kind of like our chances of beating the British were for our independence. For every 10,000 acorns only 1 will likely survive to become a tree. Squirrels, deer and other animals love to eat acorns and small oak saplings. Also if there isn’t enough sunlight reaching the forest floor oak trees won’t have much of a chance to grow. (This is where proper timber management comes in by cutting down a mature tree to open up the canopy and allow those little babies to grow).
Botanically, oaks are divided into two main groups or subgenera-the white oaks, Leucobalanus, and the red oaks, Erythrobalanus.
The white oaks have leaves that are lobed or coarsely toothed and do not have bristles at the end of the lobes or teeth. They are more rounded. The acorns mature in the one growing season, are usually sweet, and germinate in the fall soon after they drop to the ground. The bark is usually light gray and somewhat scaly.
In contrast red oaks have leaves that are lobed or have entire margins. Those with lobes have a bristle at the end of each lobe while those with en-tire margins have a bristle at the leaf tip and may have bristles along the margin. The acorns require 2 years to mature, are usually bitter, and germinate in the spring following autumn seed fall. The bark is dark, usually fir-rowed, and often blocky.
Oaks grow well in mixtures with other hardwoods and conifers, and on a wide range of soils and sites. and From sea level (think live oak trees in Savannah, GA) and up to 5,000 ft. in the Appalachian Mountains.
Oak trees have very strong roots. The majority of energy in the early stages of an oak trees life is focused into creating a strong and sturdy root system. Therefore they are able to survive after a burning. The game lands in western PA actually have a controlled burn as part of their management plan to help promote oak trees because the species like Birch and Aspen, which are pioneer species and grow like crazy at first, don’t have the strong root system like oaks do to persist after the burn.
The Characteristics of oak lumber are just as strikingly beautiful as the tee itself. Oak is usually straight-grained, hard, tough, very stiff, and strong. Broad wood rays show as light colored radial lines on the end grain as dark colored distinct flakes or ribbon on the quarter sawn faces.
Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring specializes in the rift & quartered sawn flooring and you can really see the beautiful flakes on each board.
Oak lumber requires a lot of attention while drying. Oak shrinks greatly and it’s very important to dry the oak slowly, but not too slowly in the dry kiln. If it’s dried too quickly the surface could have checking, or cracks, among other problems. (I’ll do other blogs soon about drying the lumber, its importance, and what we do to be sure it’s dried correctly).
We use White Oak to produce our LIVE SAWN flooring and lumber. (I’ll have a blog on this unique product in the near future). As far as the characteristics of Oak, white oak’s heartwood has a high natural resistance to decay and when a board with the heart intact is dried the heartwood stays together.
OAK & AMERICAN HISTORY
- The use of oak has changed throughout history along with technology. It was primarily used for ship building until the early 1900s when they Navy switch to using steel.
- White Oak was utilized with the development of the railroads as we moved out west and there was a demand for strong durable ties.
- My great grandpa, Harry Hickman, started Hickman Lumber originally cutting mine timbers and blocking for the steel industry which dominated Pittsburgh & western PA.
- White Oak is still used for fuel wood today. Kiln Dried White Oak has more BTUs than coal!
- What’s more American than whiskey, and it could not be possible without the use of white oak to make barrels, kegs, and casks for storing and curing.
- Today’s #1 use of white oak is…. HARDWOOD FLOORING!
Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring is all produced in Western PA. The oak trees come from FSC managed forests which are managed by Hickman Timber Management. We employ US citizens and keep our carbon footprint to a minimum by using local, renewable resources. Fortunately we have some of the most beautiful oak trees in the world in our backyard.