Microsatellite analysis was used to examine parentage and spatial distributions of 62 adult bur oaks Quercus macrocarpa, and 100 saplings in a single stand. Using genotypes scored by PCR products at four microsatellite loci, we determined that 94 saplings matched at least one parent in the stand. Saplings often occur as dense clusters of half-sibs around the presumed maternal parent, and only four adults were seed parents to a large proportion of the saplings sampled. A stump apparently was the seed parent of the largest cluster of half-sibs, which occupied a sizeable light gap opened up by the death of their maternal tree. Approximately half of the saplings appeared to have grown from seeds that had not been removed after falling from the tree, and half from seeds that were dispersed beyond the crown of their maternal parent. Long-distance seed dispersal may be more common than has been previously reported. Extremely high levels of long-distance pollination were indicated, and pollen donors within the stand were generally distributed randomly around maternal trees. More than half of the saplings had paternal parents outside of the stand. This study demonstrates the utility of microsatellite analysis for studying mating systems, seed dispersal and seedling establishment in natural plant populations.