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Life History and Disturbance Response of Quercus velutina (black oak)
Family: Fagaceae
Guild: persistent, large-seeded, advance growth dependent
Functional Lifeform: medium-size to large deciduous tree
Ecological Role: grows on dry or very well drained upland soils in mixtures with other upland oaks; also occurs on moist sites but is eventually replaced by more mesic associates
Lifespan, yrs (typical/max): 100/200
Shade Tolerance: intermediate
Height, m: 18-24
Canopy Tree: yes
Pollination Agent: wind
Seeding, yrs (begins/optimal/declines): 20/40/75
Mast Frequency, yrs: 2-3
New Cohorts Source: seeds or sprouts
Flowering Dates: late spring
Flowers/Cones Damaged by Frost: no
Seedfall Begins: early fall
Seed Banking: up to 1 yr
Cold Stratification Required: yes
Seed Type/Dispersal Distance/Agent: nut (acorn)/ to 50 m/ gravity, birds, other animals
Season of Germination: spring
Seedling Rooting System: taproot
Sprouting: seedling and stump sprouts common
Establishment Seedbed Preferences:
Substrate: mineral soil with light litter cover
Light: overstory shade
Moisture: moist required
Temperature: neutral
Disturbance response:
Fire: Black oak is well-adapted to periodic fire. Black oak is characteristic as a community dominant only where major disturbances periodically open the canopy. Without fire, black oak will be outcompeted by more shade-tolerant species. Fuel type determines fire behavior and fire effects; in grassy fuels (prairie margins), fires are hotter and cause more mortality compared to fires fueled by hardwood litter. Fires in the past were mostly dormant-season fires occurring at intervals of years to decades. A relatively thick-barked species, it is moderately resistant to damage and topkill from fire. Larger trees (> 10 cm dbh) are more resistant than smaller trees. Fire-caused wounds may be entry points for damaging fungi. Topkilled black oak sprout vigorously from adventitious buds in the root crown or from root suckers. Multi-stemmed clumps in which leaf litter accumulates are more susceptible to mortality than single stems. Seedling establishment may occur from seeds of surviving trees onsite or from offsite seeds carried by birds and other animals. Prescribed fire results in higher densities of black oak, but multiple fires in a short time period (e.g., 5 fires in 8 years) can weaken rootstocks and reduce black oak density. Where pine regeneration is desired, prescribed burning has been used to control oaks, and is most successful where the stand is burned the summer following springtime felling.
Air pollution: Black oak is intermediate in sensitivity to ozone.
Exotics: Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) is a defoliator of eastern hardwood forests, introduced to Massachusetts from France in 1885. It has spread throughout New England into Virginia and Michigan. Defoliation causes growth loss, decline, and mortality. It feeds on many tree species, but Quercus and Populus are the most susceptible taxa, and trees growing on xeric sites are the most vulnerable. Various efforts have been made to control it, with mixed results. A fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga introduced from Japan causes considerable mortality to gypsy moth populations. E. maimaiga levels are promoted by damp weather.