Herb: Black Oak

Latin name: Quercus velutina

Synonyms: Quercus tinctoria

Family: Fagaceae (Beech Family)

Medicinal use of Black Oak:

The inner bark contains quercitannic acid and is used medicinally, mainly as a mild astringent. It is inferior to the bark of white oaks because it contains large amounts of tannin. The bark is astringent, disinfectant, emetic, febrifuge and tonic. It is used in the treatment of chronic dysentery, intermittent fevers, indigestion, asthma and lost voice. An infusion has been used as a gargle for sore throats, hoarseness colds etc. The bark can be chewed as a treatment for mouth sores. An infusion of the bark has been used as a wash for sore and chapped skin. A decoction of the crushed bark has been used as a wash for sore eyes. 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:


30 m
(98 feet)

to May

Habitat of the herb:

Dry woods. Often found on poor dry sandy, heavy clay soils or on gravelly uplands and ridges.

Edible parts of Black Oak:

Seed - cooked. The seed is up to 25mm long and wide. It can be dried, ground into a powder and used as a thickening in stews etc or mixed with cereals for making bread. The seed contains bitter tannins, these can be leached out by thoroughly washing the seed in running water though many minerals will also be lost. Either the whole seed can be used or the seed can be dried and ground it into a powder. It can take several days or even weeks to properly leach whole seeds, one method was to wrap them in a cloth bag and place them in a stream. Leaching the powder is quicker. A simple taste test can tell when the tannin has been leached. 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 is a source of tannin. A yellow dye is obtained from this tree. The bark is a rich source whilst the seed can also be used. The dye is reddish-yellow according to one report and does not need a mordant. Wood - heavy, hard, strong, coarse grained. It weighs 43lb per cubic foot. Of little value except as a fuel. Commercially important according to another report. The wood is used for rough lumber, cross-ties etc.

Propagation of Black 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:

Dry woods. Often found on poor dry sandy, heavy clay soils or on gravelly uplands and ridges.

Known hazards of Quercus velutina:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.