Quercus species are ecologically and economically important components of deciduous forests of the eastern United States. However, knowledge pertinent to a thorough understanding of acorn germination dynamics for these species is lacking. The objectives of this research were to determine dormancy break and germination requirements for acorns of two eastern United States bottomland species, Quercus nigra and Quercus phellos (Section Lobatae), and to present results within ecological and phylogenetic contexts. Three replicates of 50 acorns of each species received 0 (control), 6, 12 or 18 weeks of cold stratification, followed by incubation in alternating temperature regimes of 15/6, 20/10, 25/15 and 30/20°C. Eighteen weeks of cold stratification were not sufficient for dormancy break in Q. nigra acorns. Cumulative germination percentages at 4 weeks of incubation were ≥77%, but only in incubation temperatures of 25/15 and 30/20°C. Dormancy break in Q. phellos acorns was achieved with 18 weeks of cold stratification, and cumulative germination percentages were ≥87% at 4 weeks of incubation in all test temperature regimes. Gibberellic acid solutions were not an effective substitute for cold stratification in either species. Phylogenetically, Q. nigra and Q. phellos are closely related species and, ecologically, both grow in the same habitat. Acorns of both species possess deep physiological dormancy (PD), but dormancy break and germination requirements differ in acorns of these two Quercus species.