The Connecticut state tree is the White Oak (Quercus alba), officially recognized in remembrance of a particular White Oak tree, the Charter Oak, once located near present-day Hartford, Connecticut. Legend has it that a cavity in the Charter Oak was used to hide the Connecticut colony’s charter document, protecting it from near-certain revocation by England’s governor-general, Sir Edmund Andros, in 1687. Captain Joseph Wadsworth is said to have accomplished the feat by effectively snatching the document from Andros’s grasp under the cloak of darkness after the lights were extinguished in a meeting hall. Whether the story is legend or fact, the Charter Oak is a symbol of Connecticut’s love of freedom and spiritual strength in the face tyranny.
The White Oak is native throughout the eastern United States. It can grow to more than 100 feet tall and its trunk can reach four feet in diameter. It is a deciduous tree; however, its four- to eight-inch lobed leaves are known to stay on the tree through the winter, especially in the case of younger specimens. Typically, the tree’s foliage changes to purples and reds in the autumn. The White Oak produces acorns, often in copious amounts. The tree has a broad, irregularly branched growth habit and rounded crown that most find quite attractive.
Well-known as an ornamental shade-tree, the White Oak is commonly planted in open, park-like settings or in expansive yards. It is considered the most desirable landscaping tree among the oak species. However, it is a slow growing tree and may be best appreciated by the children and grandchildren of the planter. Additionally, it is difficult to transplant successfully.
The White Oak is also a valuable source of strong, decay-resistant wood. White oak barrels are often used in wine and whiskey making. White oak furniture and interior molding is exceptionally popular for its durability and attractive appearance.