Herb: Burr Oak

Latin name: Quercus macrocarpa

Family: Fagaceae (Beech Family)

Medicinal use of Burr Oak:

The bark is astringent and tonic. An infusion has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea. A decoction of the root or inner bark has been used in the treatment of cramps. Any galls produced on the tree are strongly astringent and can be used in the treatment of haemorrhages, chronic diarrhoea, dysentery etc.

Description of the plant:


15 m
(49 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Found in a variety of habitats from dry hillsides to moist bottomlands, rich woods and fertile slopes, mainly on limestone soils.

Edible parts of Burr Oak:

Seed - cooked. Very large, the seed can be up to 5cm x 4cm, though it is somewhat variable in size and shape. The seed can be ground into a powder and used in making bread, dumplings etc and as a thickener in soups. The seed of this species is considered to be one of the most palatable of all the oaks. Many trees have sweet seeds with little tannin and the seed can be eaten raw or cooked. If the seed is bitter then this is due to the presence of tannins, these can be leached out by thoroughly washing the dried and ground up seed in water, though many minerals will also be lost. The traditional method of preparing the seed was to bury it in boggy ground overwinter. The germinating seed was dug up in the spring when it would have lost most of its astringency. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

A mulch of the leaves repels slugs, grubs etc, though fresh leaves should not be used as these can inhibit plant growth. Oak galls are excrescences that are sometimes produced in great numbers on the tree and are caused by the activity of the larvae of different insects. The insects live inside these galls, obtaining their nutrient therein. When the insect pupates and leaves, the gall can be used as a rich source of tannin, that can also be used as a dyestuff. The bark has been used as a mordant for fixing dyes. Wood - hard, heavy, strong, tough, very durable, close grained. It weighs about 46lb per cubic metre. Of considerable importance as a timber tree, it is used for all types of construction, in making baskets, flooring, cabinet making, ship building etc. It is also a good fuel.

Propagation of Burr Oak:

Seed - it quickly loses viability if it is allowed to dry out. It can be stored moist and cool overwinter but is best sown as soon as it is ripe in an outdoor seed bed, though it must be protected from mice, squirrels etc. Small quantities of seed can be sown in deep pots in a cold frame. Plants produce a deep taproot and need to be planted out into their permanent positions as soon as possible, in fact seed sown in situ will produce the best trees. Trees should not be left in a nursery bed for more than 2 growing seasons without being moved or they will transplant very badly.

Cultivation of the herb:

Found in a variety of habitats from dry hillsides to moist bottomlands, rich woods and fertile slopes, mainly on limestone soils.

Known hazards of Quercus macrocarpa:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.