Its wood is the best and most valuable of the white oaks, although most of the other white oaks' wood may be marketed with it.
The white oak is fairly tolerant of a variety of habitats, and may be found on ridges, in valleys, and in between, and in dry and moist habitats, and in moderately acid and alkaline soils. The leaves are entire and variously lobed. Sometimes the lobes are shallow, extending less than half-way to the midrib, but sometimes they are deeply lobed, with the lobes somewhat branching. The bark is a light ash-gray and somewhat peeling, variously from the top, bottom and/or sides.
The acorns are long and thin relative to most oaks, and are a valuable wildlife food.
The white oak makes an outstanding shade tree, with an exceptionally wide spread and almost never dropping limbs. However, it does not tolerate urban conditions well, although it may thrive in residential neighborhoods.
It is sometimes confused with the swamp white oak, a closely-related species, and the bur oak.