How to Tell Black Oak from Cherry

      Black Oak and Cherry have similarities and differences. June 14, 2014

I ran across a few trees in a woods in north central Indiana that I can't identify and hoped someone could help. The bark looks almost like a cherry tree from a distance. Up close, the bark is deeper furrowed than a cherry, but still very dark, almost black and still looks very close to a cherry. Most of the trees are 22-24" DBH. I can identify many other red oaks in these woods, but I found some very large dark oak leaves nearly 8" long under these trees, which made me think these trees may be black oaks, but the bark doesn't match. Again, it almost looks like cherry bark but furrowed about an inch deep instead of the black scales of a cherry. The trees appear to be oaks by the shape, branch development, etc.

Forum Responses
(Forestry Forum)
From contributor Z:
Oaks have clustered end buds. Take your pocket knife and drill into the inter bark. Black oak has a very dark, yellowish-orange inter-bark and has a very bitter taste. Cherry twigs have a very pungent taste.

From contributor W:
All the black oaks I have seen have very black bark with no silver streaks. As the previous post said, the inner bark will be very yellow or yellow-orange if it is black oak. I have seen vigorously growing black oaks that have cherry-like bark. One southern oak, cherrybark oak, has lower bark that is remarkably like cherry, but I am not sure that you would find it that far north.

From contributor M:
I found an Ohio registry of trees that shows quite a few photos of bark for different trees, and I'm fairly certain these are all black oaks.

From contributor Y:
Also, your county forester or ag. extension agent is always there for you too. I agree that's too far north for cherrybark oak.

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