Trees of Alabama and the Southeast

Lisa Samuelson, Ph.D.
School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Auburn University

Scarlet Oak (Red Oak)
Quercus coccinea
Fagaceae

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous with 5-7 bristle-tipped lobes and rounded sinuses that extend more than halfway to the mid-rib. Buds are pointed and angled with white-silver hair on the upper half of the bud. Bark is black and fissured, and possibly streaked with white on the upper trunk. Trunk may swell at base and lower crown may carry dead branches. Fruit is an acorn up to 1 inch long with a nut often showing grooved, concentric rings at the tip and cap with pubescent scales covering up to 1/2 of the nut. The acorn matures in two seasons. Form is up to 30 m (100 ft) in height and 1 m (3 ft) in diameter; branches are nearly horizontal, dead branches may persist in the lower canopy. Scarlet oak is common on poorer upland sites in the eastern U.S. and is intolerant of shade. Scarlet oak can be distinguished from northern red oak and black oak by deeper sinuses on leaves throughout most of the canopy, grooved rings on the acorn tip, white hair on bud tips, and generally poorer form. The wood is used as red oak lumber and for flooring and furniture. Acorns eaten by game birds, deer, bear and many small mammals.

Photographs by Mike Hogan.

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