Quercus rubra 2017

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Latin Name

Quercus rubra

Common Name(s)

  • Red oak
  • Northern red oak
  • Common red oak
  • Eastern red oak
  • Mountain red oak
  • Gray oak

Plant Family


Plant Description (Height/Habit/General Characteristics)

A medium to large sized perennial, deciduous tree with a rounded to broad spreading, an irregular crown, and a 50-75 foot height.

Common name originates from the red fall foliage color, red petioles, and reddish interior wood.

Quercus rubra is cherished for its adaptability and practicality, especially in urban areas.

Quercus rubra.JPG

Photo credit: Quercus rubra at Queen Elizabeth Park
Photographer credit: Roy Foster

Leaf Description


  • Deciduous
  • Alternate
  • Simple
  • Elliptic
  • Dark, radiant green
  • Gray-white underneath
  • 7 to 11 toothed lobes
    • Lobes are sharply pointed at the tips
  • 10-25 cm long
  • 8-15 cm wide
  • Brownish-red in autumn

Leaf Photo

Quercus rubra (leaf).JPG

Photo credit: ISU Forestry Extension
Photographer credit: Paul Wray

Flower Description


  • Pale yellow-green
  • Monoecious
    • Monoecious = having both male and female reproductive organs on the same individual; hermaphrodite
  • April-May
    • During/before leaf development

Flower Photo

Quercus rubra (flower).JPG

Photo credit: ISU Forestry Extension
Photographer credit: Paul Wray

Seed Description


  • Acorns
  • Brown
  • 15-30 cm long
  • Broad, shallow cup
  • Borne in singles or in clusters of 2-5
  • Mature in the 2nd year
  • Typically germinate in the spring after winter dormancy

Seed Photo

Quercus rubra (seed).JPG

Photo credit: Minnesota Wildflower
Photographer credit: Peter M. Dziuk

Bark/Stem Description


  • Dark gray/black
  • Shallowly wrinkled into broad hard scaly ridges (white)
    • Ridges are portrayed as "markings from an ice skating rink"

Inner bark

  • Reddish to pink
    • Unique element to common name

Bark/Stem Photo

Quercus rubra bark.JPG

Photo credit: Miriam Pacurar's iPhone
Photographer credit: Miriam Pacurar

Other Information


  • Nesting sites (including cavities)
    • Provide a shelter/home for birds and mammals
  • Leaves and young seedlings
    • Browsed by deer, elk, moose, and rabbits
  • Acorns
    • Eaten by small mammals and birds
    • Bluejays, wild turkeys, squirrels, small rodents, whitetail deer, and black bears
  • Buds and twigs
    • Browsed by deer during wintertime


  • Fast growing
  • Easy to transplant
  • Tolerates urban areas
    • Dry and acidic soil
    • Air pollution
  • Commonly planted as a landscape tree in Eastern North America and Europe
    • Used as a shade tree on lawns, parks, campuses, etc.

Rehabilitation Projects

  • Used for revegetation of coal mine spoils in east central United States
    • Ohio, Indian, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania

Distinguishing Characteristics


  • Less deeply lobed
    • Other oak members have significantly deeper lobes


  • When exposed to the sun, petioles are often reddish
    • Other oak petioles are typically light green/yellow-green


  • Shallow cups
  • Larger in size
    • Other oak members have small acorns

Inner bark

  • Reddish to pink

Collection Location on GGC’s Campus

Located in the woods west of the baseball field on GGC's Campus.


Commonly found on:

  • Mesic slopes
    • Mesic = containing a reasonable amount of moisture
  • Well-drained uplands
  • Lower and middle slopes
    • Elevation of 50-1800 meters
  • Northern and Eastern facing slopes
  • Clay, loam, and sandy/gravelly soils

Grows best in:

  • Coves, ravines, and on valley floors
  • Full sun and well-drained, slightly acidic, sandy loam

Historic Range

  • Eastern United States
  • Southeastern Canada

Range Map

Quercus rubra range map.png

Range Map credit: Plants Profile for Quercus rubra

Cultural Information


  • Hardwood lumber
    • Furniture
    • Interior finishing
    • Cabinets
    • Paneling
    • Flooring
    • Agricultural implements
    • Posts
    • Railway ties


  • Acorns
    • Food source
      • Native Americans
    • To remove bitter tannins, acorns were -
      • Boiled
      • Leached with ashes
      • Soaked for days in water
      • Buried over winter
  • Bark
    • Medicine source
      • Native Americans
    • Heart troubles and bronchial infections
      • Bark was also used as an astringent, a disinfectant, and a cleanser

Page Created by

Miriam Pacurar


Northern Red Oak on the Tree Guide at arborday.org

Plant Guide Northern Red Oak Quercus rubra L.

Plants Profile for Quercus rubra (northern red oak)

Quercus rubra L

Quercus rubra - Plant Finder

Quercus rubra - Wikipedia

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