A deciduous tree from 70 to 100 ft high, forming a rounded or columnar head of branches; bark glabrous, grey; young shoots and leaves at first downy, then glabrous. Leaves pale green, thin, oblong-lanceolate, tapered at the base, mostly pointed at the apex, entire, or slightly wavy on each margin; 2 to 51⁄2 in. long, 1⁄3 to 1 in. wide; stalk 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in. long, minutely downy or glabrous. Acorns (rarely seen on introduced trees) scarcely bigger than a large red currant, and produced in a shallow, saucer-shaped cup.
Native of the Atlantic states of the USA to northern Florida, thence westward through the lower Mississippi valley to eastern Texas; introduced early in the 18th century. It is quite distinct from all the other cultivated deciduous oaks in its glabrous, narrow, normally untoothed leaves. In the young state it is a very elegant tree. Although not common in Britain, it thrives here and reaches a large size, as the following measurements show: Kew, near the Pagoda, a forked tree 70 × 12 ft at 3 ft (1967); in the Oak collection, 64 × 71⁄4 ft (1972) and pl. 1901, 77 × 7 ft, grafted at ground-level (1972); Knap Hill Nursery, Surrey, 60 × 111⁄2 ft (1961); Cobham Hall, Kent, 82 × 121⁄4 ft (1965); Highnam Court, Glos., 52 × 8 ft at 4 ft (1970); Bicton, Devon, 57 × 63⁄4 ft at 4 ft (1968); Glen-durgan, Cornwall, 40 × 53⁄4 ft (1965).
Q. laurifolia Michx. Q. rhombica Sarg.; Q. obtusa (Willd.) Ashe; Q. hybrida Ashe; Q. hemisphaeriea Bartr. ex Willd. – Leaves glabrous beneath except for axillary tufts, as in Q. phellos, some of them shaped more or less as in that species, others asymmetrically widened on one side in the upper half, or obovate with a rounded apex, or rhombic-elliptic, or even asymmetrically lobed. It is possibly the result of hybridisation between Q. phellos and Q. nigra (Burk, Journ. El. Mitch. Sc. Soc., Vol. 79 (1963), pp. 159-63).