Why is Raleigh nicknamed the City of Oaks?

Photo by @visitraleigh

Ever wonder why Raleigh is nicknamed the “City of Oaks”? Well, us too — so we did little digging…

And it’s kind of obvious. Oak trees are everywhere in Raleigh. They line the city streets and even welcome visitors as they land at RDU. However, It is rumored that the city’s founding fathers were the ones to originally call Raleigh the City of Oaks in 1792. The name just stuck. 

In actuality, Raleigh’s oak trees have most likely been here far longer than human habitation of any kind. One of our tallest and oldest oak trees stood in Nash Square for ~120 years. The beautiful willow oak was cut down due to safety concerns in 2019.

Another great white oak once stood at the intersection of N. Blount and E.North streets. This oak reached ~200 years and grew to 100 feet. And although the tree succumbed to weather damage + disease in 1991, a plaque commemorating the tree and its unique history remains. 

There are more than 600 different types of oak trees and while we didn’t think you’d want us to tell you about every single one, we will name the two most common to Raleigh. During your explorations, you’ve most likely seen white + red oaks — white oaks have rounded lobes and sweeter acorns, while red oaks have soft pointed spines on the ends of their leaf lobes and more bitter acorns.

But it should be noted that Raleigh does have other trees as well. Hey, you never know. Magnolias, dogwoods and cedars are all also common in the city. So if you’re itching to go tree-spotting and wondering how to identify an oak from other common saplings, some distinguishing features include: acorns, lobed leaves + small, scaly bark. ProTip: If the tree produces acorns, it’s an oak.

Did you know that one huge oak can drop up to 10,000 acorns in a mast year? Maybe we should be the City of Acorns instead? 🌰