‘Crimson Cross’ is a consistent favorite among Arboretum visitors! The parent species of this oak are undoubtedly amongst the toughest of our native oaks. Bur oaks can be found thriving in nearly any soil type, from dry clay to moist bottom lands, sandy plains or urban planting sites. The species is most well-known and probably best loved for its role in the Midwestern states, where the coarse-barked bur oak savanna persisted against a harsh climate and frequent fires on the prairie. It is also one of the most wide-ranging of the oaks, occurring from Manitoba south to Texas, from Pennsylvania across the Great Plains to the foothills of the Rockies. The post oak has a slightly more limited range, found in most of the eastern states, as far west as Texas, with Iowa as its northern limit. It can often be found on shallow, rocky soil, where drought conditions are the norm. Its foliage is easily identifiable, with characteristic square lobes, referred to often as resembling the Maltese cross. At maturity, the tree has a rounded, gnarly shape, giving it a look of majestic age.
While we have grown this hybrid many repeatedly, none have the stand-out features of ‘Crimson Cross’. The hybrid can occur anywhere the two species overlap, however this particular specimen was grown from Kansas source seed. Leaves favor the post oak parent in shape, and are thick and lustrous, a nod to the plant’s drought resistance. It displays consistent, dramatic fall color, with the veins often changing before the rest of the leaf. At the tender age of 25, the original ‘Crimson Cross’ is strongly excurrent in form. We’re looking forward to watching it grow and develop!