Scarlet oak or Spanish oak (Quercus coccinea) is a medium to large deciduous tree. It has alternatively placed, deeply-lobed, sharply-toothed leaves. The twigs are reddish-brown with whitish-hairy bud tips. Flowers form as separate male and female catkins. Its fruit is an acorn with a deep, tightly scaled cup. The tree is native to eastern North America. Scarlet oak has a brilliant red autumn foliage (compared to pin oak leaves which turn bronze) and red new leaves in early spring. Introduced into cultivation in 1691. Scarlet Oak is distinguished from Pin Oak by its growth in drier regions, a deeper acorn cup, hairy buds and rough bark. Q. coccinea (scarlet oak) hybridizes with Q. palustris (pin oak), Q. rubra (red oak), and Q. velutina (black oak) making species identification challenging. Like all Fagales many leaves remain on the tree during winter. The Latin name for acorn is ‘glans’ which is morphologically similar to the tip of the mammalian penis also called a ‘glans’. Quercus is the Latin name for “oak”. The species epithet, coccinea, means scarlet
Common name: Scarlet Oak, Black Oak, Spanish Oak, American Red Oak
Scientific Name (family and order): Quercus coccinea Munchhausen (Fagaceae, Fagales)
Species Origin: Southeast and Central United States.
New Jersey Status: USDA Native
Habit: Pyramid shaped tree. 60 – 100’ tall x 50’ wide; bole diameter 1 – 2’. Notably, Scarlet Oak, like Pin Oak, has drooping lower branches.
Habitat: Zones 4 – 9; grows on uplands, dry slopes, ridges and sandy barrens.
Trunk/Stem: Bark gray, smooth with vertical stripes alternating with dark gray to dark brown rough ridges. Older bark becomes entirely rough with dark gray-brown ridges and furrows. The inner bark is bright red-orange.
Leaves: Deciduous, Simple, Alternate. Leaves are 3 -7” long, widest at the middle; 7 lobes divided at least halfway to the yellow midvein; each lobe has bristle-tipped teeth. Each lobe is widest toward the tip. Upper surface of the blade is glossy, green; below it is pale yellow green with tufts of hair in the vein angles. The leaf stalks (the petioles) are long.
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: The fruit is an acorn, 1/2 – 1” long and 5/8” wide; ovoid, brown, 1/3 – ½ enclosed by a cup made of light brown thick hairy scales. Acorns are borne singly or in pairs. They ripen by the second year.