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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Quercus, Phytophthora, Nuts

I have a few acres in South Kitsap where I am creating pasture by cutting down many of our firs and pines. We will have herds of goats and sheep and swine. I like the idea of acorns for swine and the increased btu of oak for firewood. From my research, it seems that Garry oak and White oak grow too slowly, while Red oak and Pin oak are fast and produce a lot of acorns.

So, I'm leaning towards Red and Pin Oaks, particularly Pin Oaks, but is the fact that these aren't native a problem? Would these trees grow well in the Pacific Northwest, in sandy loam with low nitrogen a pH of 5.3. The soil has pretty good organic matter, Potassium and Magnesium. The trees will be planted in a full sun to mostly sunny area, but depending on the angle of the sun, the surrounding firs throw a pretty big shadow.

Are there other oaks with good acorns I should consider?

Also, is Sudden Oak Death a problem in the Puget Sound?


I'll start with your last question first. Washington State University has a Sudden Oak Death information page. A summary of the work researchers are doing may be found in a 2013 edition of WSU's online newsletter, On Solid Ground.

I have certainly heard that it is present in our region. If you are concerned, you may want to purchase from nurseries with certifications from the USDA Plant Health Inspection Service saying that they are free of the disease. Here is a list of nurseries that have such a certificate. Interestingly, the plants on which Phytophthora ramorum has been detected (in nurseries) in our state are not oaks, but Rhododendron, Viburnum, Camellia, Kalmia, and Pieris. Outside of nurseries, the pathogen has only been found on salal.

The USDA Plant Health Inspection Service has a list of other plants which are hosts of SOD.

Returning to your questions about species of oak, Oregon State University's Landscape Plants Database has information about Quercus rubra (Red oak)and Quercus palustris which confirm that they prefer sunny sites. Red oak will produce acorns in two years. Pin oak is one of the fastest growing oaks, and its acorns (also produced after 2 years) are small.

Local tree expert Arthur Lee Jacobson has this to say about Quercus rubra in his Trees of Seattle (2006):

"New Jersey's State Tree proves to be Seattle's fastest-growing oak, on average. [...] the safest bet if you want an oak in a hurry is to plant a Red oak--and then stand back!" Here is what he says about pin oak, Quercus palustris: "Seattle's most abundant oak. [...] Pin oak is slender in all respects: trunk, limb, branch, twig, leaf--only the tiny squat acorns belie the name. Rapidly growing, it can attain up to 135' x 23 1/4". Inexperienced tree-watchers must be careful not to confuse it with Scarlet oak, which is less common, less slender, makes bigger acorns [...]."

The only aspect of your site description that concerns me, as far as these two oak choices, is the sun exposure--you might want to see how far the shadow of the firs extend, as these oaks will do best in sun. Unless your goal is to plant native species only, I do not see a problem with adding these non-natives to your landscape. You can certainly add lots of native shrubs and perennials if you feel that would be advantageous. There are some excellent resources for selecting native plants:
Washington Native Plant Society's landscaping guides
King County's interactive Native Plant Guide

As far as other good acorn-producing oaks which are also large trees, I can see that Arthur Lee Jacobson mentions English oak (Quercus robur) for its large acorns--and this is also potentially a very large tree (150' x 40+'). Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) has notably large acorns too. Burr oak (Quercus macrocarpa) has the largest acorns, but does not do very well in our area. The native Garry oak (too slow a grower for your needs) Quercus garryana does produce acorns.

If you want to diversify the source of nuts (in case of Sudden Oak Death), you might want to consider adding some hazels and filberts (Corylus species) which should do well here. (I don't know if pigs and goats will eat these, though.)

Date 2018-04-11
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Nuts, Pinus

Which pine species are the best for edible nuts? Are any of the pine trees that grow here in the Pacific Northwest possible sources? The cost of store-bought pine nuts is prohibitive, and it would be nice to be able to forage locally.


According to The New Oxford Book of Food Plants by J.G. Vaughan and C. Geissler (Oxford University, 1997), different species around the world have seed kernels which are used for edible purposes. In Spain, Portugal, and Italy, the main source is stone pine, Pinus pinea. In the southwestern United States, Pinus edulis (piñon pine) is used. In the western United States, the best source is Pinus monophylla, single-leaf piñon. Other species used include P. cembroides, P. cembra, P. gerardiana, P. sibirica, and P. pumila. But it is Pinus koraiensis (Korean pine) which is by far the most common variety exported worldwide. This has led to problems, and a recent New York Times article expresses concern that the pine nut industry is having a negative effect on the ecosystems of Korea and the far eastern reaches of Russia. If you can find local sources of edible pine nuts, you will be saving the bears and boars and chipmunks from famine!

Of the edible varieties mentioned above, local author Arthur Lee Jacobson (Trees of Seattle, 2006) lists Pinus edulis, Pinus cembra, and Pinus cembroides as rare in Seattle; mature specimens of stone pine (Pinus pinea) are also uncommon, but there are examples in the Washington Park Arboretum, Laurelhurst Playfield, and the Hiram Chittenden Locks. Korean pine is very rare in Seattle, with examples in the Arboretum, Woodland Park, and the Locks. (Bear in mind that harvesting plant material—including seed kernels--from the Washington Park Arboretum is not allowed.)

You might try growing a tree of your own, selecting one of the species known to thrive here. The tree would have to be 10-15 years old in order to produce usable seed kernels. This permaculture website has information on growing pine trees for their edible kernels. You will need some patience and dexterity (it takes time for pine nuts to mature, and it takes skill to harvest them).

Date 2017-05-17
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Vegetable gardening, Nuts, Fruit--Care and maintenance, Edible landscaping

Here is a short list of good books for both the arm-chair kitchen gardener and for those who like to get their hands dirty:

  • The New Kitchen Garden by Anna Pavord (Dorling Kindersley, $29.95) has lots of photos and diagrams with well organized, concise text.
  • Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference by Elizabeth Schneider (William Morrow, $60.00) has "500 recipes and 275 photographs" focusing on the history of vegetables and how to use them in the kitchen. It has no growing information, however.
  • The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy (Sierra Club Books, $25.00) introduces the idea of planting fruits and vegetables all around the garden.
  • Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally by Robert Kourik (Metamorphic Press, available used online and at the Miller Library) is a classic resource thick with practical details on everything from energy-conserving landscaping and soil preparation to drip irrigation for fruit trees.
  • How to Grow More Vegetables: And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons (Ten Speed Press, $17.95) is an old classic which has just been revised and reissued.
  • The Cook and the Gardener: a Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Country-side by Amanda Hesser (W.W. Norton, $32.50) is a delightful book divided into seasons with diary-like entries about living, gardening and cooking on a French farm.

Date: 2007-04-03
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May 31 2018 13:14:08