This is one of the most magnificent trees of its native country, reaching in places 100 to 150 ft, with a trunk 3 to 6 ft in diameter, producing a splendid timber with much the same qualities of durability, etc., as our native species. The bark is divided into narrow, flat ridges which tend to spread outward at the base, giving to the trunk a rather shaggy appearance. Young shoots soon glabrous. Leaves obovate, five- to nine-lobed, 5 to 9 in. long, scarcely half as wide, narrowed at the base, the upper surface dark, glossy green, the lower one pale or glaucous, and at first downy; petiole 1⁄2 to 1 in. long, yellowish green. Fruits sessile, solitary or in twos; acorn about 3⁄4 in. long, about one-fourth enclosed in the cup, which is covered with warty scales.
Native of eastern N. America from S.E. Canada to Florida, west in the USA to E. Texas and E. Iowa, attaining its greatest size in the valleys between the Appalachians and the Mississippi. Although introduced to Britain early in the 18th century, it has, after many trials, proved a failure in this country, though perhaps not so complete a failure as was suggested in previous editions of this work. The field-characters by which it can best be distinguished from our common oak are the larger, longer-stalked leaves and the very different, loosely ridged bark. Unlike our common oak, the leaves of Q. alba usually colour before falling, and this is true of trees at Kew, which, though of no ornamental value in themselves, sometimes turn a rich, brilliant red in autumn.
The following specimens have been recorded: Kew, pl. 1897 (?), 53 × 31⁄4 ft (1972); pl. 1904, 44 × 4 ft and 39 × 31⁄2 ft (1967); Windsor Great Park, 52 × 51⁄4 ft (1967); Westonbirt, Glos., in Willesley Drive, pl. 1877, 50 × 31⁄2 ft (1972); University Botanic Garden, Cambridge, 53 × 43⁄4 ft (1969); Edinburgh Botanic Garden, three trees, the largest 40 × 31⁄4 ft (1967).