Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) is a medium to large deciduous tree 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 have 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). Introduced into Britain in 1724. Like all Fagales many leaves are retained during the winter. The Latin name for acorn is ‘glans’ which is morphologicall similar to the tip of the mammalian penis also called a ‘glans’. Quercus is the Latin name for “oak”. The specific epithet, rubra, refers to the red petiole and autumn leaves.
Common name: Red Oak, Northern Red Oak
Scientific Name (family and order): Quercus rubra L. (Fagaceae, Fagales)
Species Origin: Eastern North America
New Jersey Status: USDA Native
Habit: 80’ – 100’ tall and 70’ wide; broadly spreading.
Habitat: Zones 3 -7; woods but in the mountains in the southern range.
Trunk/Stem: Bark gray, smooth (similar to beech when young) becoming deeply furrowed. The furrows run the length of the trunk (black oak lacks long furrows)
Leaves: Deciduous, Simiple, Alternate. Leaves elliptic, symmetric, ovate or obovate 8” long x 6” wide; with slender toothed lobes, (the sinuses are less than half way to the midvein). Blade surface above is matte dark green and smooth; below it is paler and smooth with small tufts of brown hairs in the vein axils. Margins are smooth but the lobes of the leaves end in bristle-like (awn) points. Petioles are often red at the base. Leaves turn ruby-red mixed with gold in autumn before turning brown.
Flowers: Monoecious. Flowers appear on old or new growth; staminate catkins pendent and clustered; its flowers comprise a 4 – 7 lobed calyx which encloses 6 stamens. The pistillate flowers are solitary or on few to many flowered spikes which form in the axial of new leaves. Individual flowers consist of a 6 lobed calyx surrounding 3-celled ovary; the whole is partly covered by the involucre.
Fruits and seeds: Acorn set on very shallow cup, up to 1 ¼” long; ripens the second year.