Previously called yellow oak due to its uniquely pigmented yellow inner bark, this deciduous member of the red oak group is widespread throughout its native range across central and eastern North America. In the northern parts, including Cape Cod, it reaches relatively smaller heights (up to 82 feet), though it can grow up to 150 feet in nutrient-rich soils farther south. Its mature leaves are deep green and shiny with bristle-tipped lobes, though the notches vary greatly in depth. On their underside, they are finely hairy, which sets them apart from those of the scarlet oak and northern red oak, two other members of the red oak group.
Black oaks are found within forests and woodlands, where they tend to begin seed production after about 20 years, reaching maximum potential between 40 and 75 years. Their fruits are acorns, which mature into a reliable crop every 2-3 years, at which point they are consumed by deer, wild turkeys, squirrels, and numerous other species of insects, small rodents, and birds. Though these animals may eat or damage large proportions of its acorn crops, black oaks rely on them, as well as gravity, for seed dispersal.