Seven species of oak trees are native to Minnesota, according to the website of the Minnesota DNR. Three of these are found in northern Minnesota; the Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa), Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra), and Northern Pin Oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis).

There are two main groups of oak trees, the white oaks and the red oaks. Leaf shape is the easiest way to distinguish between these two groups of oaks. Leaves of white oaks typically have rounded lobes, while red oak leaves have several pointed tips. The Bur Oak is a white oak and the Northern Red Oak and Pin Oak are red oaks.

Leaves of the northern Minnesota red oaks, the Pin Oak and the more common Northern Red Oak, are shown in the picture gallery below. These trees are difficult to tell apart. Pin Oak leaves typically have deeper indentations between their pointed lobes. I believe the leaves in the two pictures in the upper row are from Pin Oaks while Northern Red Oak leaves are shown in the bottom row.

Leaves of the Bur Oak are shown in the following picture gallery. Bur Oak is the only white oak commonly found in northern Minnesota, the rounded lobes of its leaves are diagnostic of white oaks.

Oaks rely on the wind for pollination, which requires them to produce enormous amounts of pollen. Oak pollen is shed from male flowers called catkins over a period of about four days each spring. The picture below shows catkins hanging from a branch of a Bur Oak.

May 29, 2021

The images below compare a Bur Oak nearly leafless in mid-May and later in mid-June with its full complement of leaves.

Bur Oak, May 15 and June 12, 2021

Published by jimr77

Recently retired, loving life in northern Minnesota

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  1. We are considering building a home in northern, MN (Walker area). Our builder advised us to make the “site” selection on our lot when the trees are barren. Can anyone tell us when the leaves begin to grow and get large enough to offer some privacy in the Spring?


    1. Hi John,

      The situation you ask about is very familiar to me. We can barely see our neighbors from June to October, but it changes drastically when the leaves fall. We typically get up here around Mother’s Day, and a week or two later we get our “summer privacy”.

      We are about 10 miles south of Walker.


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