Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) is a medium to large deciduous tree often 90” tall (maximum 165’) with a round symmetrical crown. Leaves are alternate, tapered, pointed, usually with shallow lobes, and bright red in fall. The leaf stalk is often red. Twigs and buds are reddish. Young bark is smooth (like all oaks in the red oak group) and dark grayish. With age, mature bark forms long, board, smooth ridges and shallow fissures. Northern red oak is a fast growing tree and can grow up to two feet per year. Acorns are 1” long with shallow, tightly scaled cups. The wood is not durable outdoors and the sapwood is creamy brown and relatively soft. Oaks are separated into two groups: the red oak group and the white oak group. All members of the red oak group have four things in common: 1) leaves are bristle-tipped with pointed lobes, (2) acorns mature in fall after second growing season, sprout the following season with hair inside shell and brownish/flat acorn cups, 3) larger, more pointed buds on twigs, and (4) dark smooth or ridged bark (not peeling).
Common name: Northern Red Oak, Red oak
Scientific Name (order and family): Quercus rubra L. (Fagales, Fagaceae)
Origin: North America
Habit: Broadly spreading; 75 feet tall and 60 feet wide
Trunk/Stem: Smooth reddish shoots; bark pale gray and later fissured but can be silver gray and smooth-like beech.
Leaves: Deciduous, alternate, simple, up to eight inches long and four to six inches wide with seven to eleven lobes with sharp bristle tips. Dark green above and blue-green matt below. Pinkish to red when unfolding; lustrous green in summer and changing to russet-red to bright-red in autumn.
Flowers: Monoecious; male flowers yellowish green drooping catkins; female flowers inconspicuous separately on the same plant in spring.
Fruits and Seeds: Acorn, 1 to 1 ½” long; one-quarter enclosed by shallow cup; egg-shaped; held in flat broad cups. Matures after two years.