Seasons at Awbury: Majestic Oaks

By Devika Jaikumar, Awbury Arboretum Arborist Intern 2019

Awbury’s featured plant this month is the Oak tree, part of the genus Quercus. Oaks are a common yet majestic tree found across the United States. The oldest oaks in the country are over one thousand years old, and their vast canopies can be seen even from space. Most oak trees are deciduous, dropping their leaves every year, and some are evergreen, keeping their leaves year-round. The fruit of these trees is a nut that is more commonly known as an acorn, each of which contains a single seed. Oaks produce thousands of these acorns each fall.

The genus Quercus splits into two subgroups, red oaks and white oaks. It is very easy to differentiate the two by simply looking at their leaves. The leaves of a red oak have pointed, angled lobes that end in small spines or bristles. The leaves of a white oak are rounded and smooth at the edges. Oaks can be found all over Awbury Arboretum.

Red Oak leaf. Photo credit: Karen Flick

If you are looking for a particularly impressive example of a red oak, there is a northern red oak, Quercus rubra that resides right behind the historical Cope House. It is one of the many Heritage trees on Awbury’s self-guided Heritage Tree Tour, a map of which you can find in the Cope House or at  If you are in search of a white oak, the bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa in the meadow is another highlight of our tour.

Several other types of both red and white oak now grace our grounds, thanks to a recent TreeVitalize grant from the PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources. We’ve been able to plant 105 oak trees, including red oaks like scarlet oaks, Quercus coccinea, pin oaks, Quercus palustris, and black oaks, Quercus velutina. The white oaks include white oaks, Quercus alba, swamp white oaks, Quercus bicolor, and chestnut oaks, Quercus montana.

White Oak leaf. Photo credit: Karen Flick

Nature Lovers Welcome!

Awbury is a perfect place for nature lovers to see historic and rare tree specimens, including mature River Birches, Paper Birches, Oaks, and Ashes. One of our wetlands River Birches is the second largest tree of its kind in Pennsylvania. A very large, 18th century native Sycamore shelters a ruined spring house on our northwest farm track. Awbury has both native and introduced Hollies. During the fall season, the red and orange leaves of Black Gums and Sugar Maples add color to Awbury’s beautiful landscape.

Calendar Alert! Upcoming Awbury events

10/12 – Harvest Festival

10/13 – Fabric Wreath Workshop

10/14 – Native American-inspired Dinner

10/20 – Exhibition Opening: “Papercuts” with Jonathan Greenberg

Visit Awbury’s website for more info or to buy tickets.

About Awbury

Awbury Arboretum (the former Cope family estate) transports visitors from city streets into a country retreat that is the largest remaining oasis of open space in Germantown. Trails weave through 55 acres landscaped in the English romantic style, with open meadows, ponds, woods and rolling hills. The Copes lent their Quaker sense of aesthetics to this world-class arboretum; in 1870, they hired William Saunders, designer of the Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C., to bring their vision to fruition. Today, Awbury’s mission is to preserve and interpret their historic house and landscape, in order to connect the community with nature and history. Awbury is free and open to the public every day (dawn til dusk). More info at


About Karen Flick 10 Articles
Karen is Awbury's Landscape Manager. She is a former intern at the arboretum and a Temple University graduate with degrees in psychology and horticulture.

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