Cultural Resources Plantings of White Oak for Cherokee Basketry

White oak trees (Quercus alba) are declining in the eastern forests due to high rates of mesophyte invasion due to fire suppression and overpopulation of deer. White oak is vitally important in the southern Appalachians for wood products, food for wildlife, and as a cultural resource for Cherokee basket making. Artificial regeneration for white oak have been challenging and from a Cherokee cultural perspective, another challenge is to produce certain wood properties important to artisans for basket making. These properties are usually found in slow growing white oaks present in the forest understory. We evaluated an 11-year old white oak progeny test, planted on the Qualla Boundary in North Carolina using a variety of tree shelter sizes to increase apical dominance and limit branching. Overall survival was 65.6% and was significantly impacted by initial seedling height (p = 0.045) and number of first-order lateral roots (p < 0.001). The tallest 3 m shelter had the lowest survival (47%). While the 2.3 m shelter experienced (55%) survival, 1.8 m shelter (76%), and the 1.5 m shelters with the highest seedling survival of (81%). Survival across open-pollinated half-sibling genetic families lines ranged from 31% to 81% (p = 0.008). Average height was 5.4m (max 9.3m) and the average RCD was 10.7cm (max 22.3cm). Cherokee basket makers determined most of the white oaks were too fast growing to be desirable for baskets. Additional plantings on more xeric sites at various densities may assist providing the cultural resources needs for the Cherokee.