Swamp White Oak, primarily an Oak of the Midwestern United States, is a frequent inhabitant of wet woods, swamps, wetlands, bottomlands, and near bodies of water, although it is very drought tolerant and can be planted in soils that are dry in summer.
Of all the members of the White Oak group, the undersides of its leaves are the most white, and when contrasted with its dark green leaf uppersides in the breeze, the specific epithet “bicolor” is appropriate.
Its wood is indistinguishable from White Oak when cut, and is used for the same purposes. Its canopy is often ascending in youth and middle age, becoming more rounded at maturity. Swamp White Oak may reach 70 feet tall by 60 feet wide at maturity, when found in the open. As a member of the White Oak group and the Beech Family, it is related to the Beeches, Chestnuts, and other Oaks.
Swamp White Oak prefers rich, deep, moist to wet, poorly-drained, acidic soils, but adapts well to dry and average soils that are neutral to slightly alkaline in pH. Along with Pin Oak and Swamp Chestnut Oak, it is one of the best hardwoods for wet soils, but it adapts better than many Pin Oaks to wet soils that also have a neutral to slightly alkaline pH. It thrives in full sun to partial sun (but is shade tolerant in youth) and is found in zones 4 to 8.
Swamp White Oak has three notable problems that may occur. Along with English Oak, it is the Oak most likely to get powdery mildew on its foliage in late summer and early autumn. This causes no damage to the tree, it just makes the leaves have a white cast on a green background.
Along with Bur Oak, Swamp White Oak may have rounded galls on its twigs and branchlets, the result of chewing by the Oak rough bulletgall wasp. Unless infestations are especially dense, no long-term damage is done. Finally, this species will develop chlorosis in high pH (very alkaline) soils, almost always the result of being transplanted into chalky and gravelly urban soils, usually near asphalt and/or concrete.