This one was easy for me to initially identify – I knew it was an oak. But which one? There are 7 different oak species in southwestern Virginia. Using my plant identification guide, I was able to identify this one as the post oak (quercus stellata). This tree typically grows on rocky or sandy ridges and dry woodlands – a change from the habitat of the other species that I have found so far. Post oak is said to be intolerant of shade so the specimen shown here is growing in less than optimal conditions.
Post oak is a valuable source of wildlife food. The acorns are an important part of the diet of turkey, deer, and squirrels, of course. The leaves are used for nest building by birds, squirrels, and raccoons while cavities in the tree provide dens for birds and small mammals. Human uses include railroad ties, construction and mine timbers, flooring, fenceposts, veneer, and stair risers and treads. I wasn’t able to find whether there are any folk medicines derived from any portion of the post oak, though I wouldn’t doubt that there are some.