Quercus marilandica: The Blackjack Oak

It is with great great excitement that I introduce to you my favorite tree, the Quercus marilandica. I have some little bitty baby trees-to-be that I would like to show you:


These are my wells of future-hope, my Lorax’s own Unless. I collected them in November on a field trip from the peak of Sugarloaf Mountain. They are trees of the difficult place, the first to grow after a fire, able to tolerate infertile soil or find the means to live on a nearly bare rock face.

More often you might find them in Texas, or growing alongside the Post Oak, but this tree, commonly named the Blackjack Oak, is special because it has been scientifically blessed with the name of my beloved state of Maryland.

My bitty baby Oaks will be tenderly cared for, which I hope they will enjoy despite their predilection for adversity. I planted them with a Grumpy Old Man, after getting the advice of some native tree specialists who came from Minnesota to Maryland for a plant grower’s convention. The marilandica has a little bristle on the tip of its leaf (in fact it has multiple bristles) and this identifies it as a member of the Red Oak family. Acorns in the White Oak family can be found rushing to sprout when they fall from the tree in autumn, in a hurry to beat the squirrels who want to eat their sweet young flesh. The Red Oak family’s fetal acorns are slower, not in a hurry to leave their little wombs. The pressure on them is lower, because their taste, a little squirrel told me, is bitter. Squirrels bury them in the hope that they’ll sweeten with time. Come spring, many a forgotten member of this family begins to grow there where it was “planted.”

Quercus marilandica and the rest of its Red Brethren is one of many plant species that requires a period of chill before it will germinate. This winter, alongside the Grumpy Old Man’s jealously guarded Paw Paw seeds in one drawer of the refrigerator, there was a baggy full of acorns with a small wet piece of paper towel to keep them from drying out.

Now that a (silver) spring has theoretically sprunged, I have gotten deep pots for what I’m told will be a very long taproot, and some sandy soil, and let these little angels out to play. Best of luck to them and to all the other baby trees pushing through their shells and reaching out into our warming world.


Save your back! Let a grumpy old man carry your pot.


Acorns planted sideways about an inch below the surface.


The fetal incubator (greenhouse).


1 Comment

Filed under Plants: Grown from Seed

One response to “Quercus marilandica: The Blackjack Oak

  1. These did not sprout, for the record. Floating proved to be a bad sign!

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