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Quercus coccinea (Scarlet oak)
Vick, Albert F. W.

Quercus coccinea

Quercus coccinea Münchh.

Scarlet Oak, Red Oak

Fagaceae (Beech Family)


USDA Symbol: QUCO2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Large tree with a rounded, open crown of glossy foliage, best known for its brilliant autumn color. Scarlet oak is a 75 ft., deciduous tree, occasionally reaching heights of 150 ft. A somewhat pyramidal crown develops from stout, ascending branches. Bark brown with fine fissures and scaly ridges, inner bark is red to orangish-pink. Twigs are smooth reddish-brown; clustered terminal buds are ovoid and reddish-brown with pubescence near the apex, 5-angled in cross section. Leaves smooth petiole 3/4 - 2 3/8 inches (19 - 60 mm) in length; leaves are elliptic to obovate, 2 3/4 - 6 1/4 inches (70 - 159 mm) long, 3 - 5 1/8 inches (76 - 130 mm) wide, margins with 5 - 9 lobes extending more than 1/2 the distance to the midrib, base truncate, apex acute; upper surface a glossy light green, with tufts of axillary tomentum beneath, secondary veins raised on both surfaces. Leaves turn rich, scarlet-red in the fall. Catkins appear just before or with the appearance of new leaves.

A popular and handsome shade and street tree. The lumber is marketed as Red Oak, which differs in its shallowly lobed, dull green leaves, and acorns with a shallow cup. Black Oak (Quercus velutina) is also similar, but has yellow-green leaves with brown hairs beneath and acorns with a deep cup of loose hairy scales. This species is very susceptible to fire damage because of its thin bark. Such injuries often result in heart rot. Grows rapidly and begins to bear fruit at age 20.


From the Image Gallery

3 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Elliptic , Obovate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Margin: Lobed
Leaf Apex: Acute
Leaf Base: Truncate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Catkin
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Fast growing large tree that can obtain a height of 120 feet (36.6 m).
Leaf: Upper surface a glossy light green, with tufts of axillary tomentum beneath.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Acorns biennial; cup is a glossy dark reddishbrown, inner surface is smooth and light brown, covering 1/3 - 1/2 the nut; bluntly oblong nut, 1/2 - 7/8 inches (13 - 22 mm) in length, smooth with concentric rings at apex.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Native Distribution: Range extends from Maine west to Michigan, south to Missouri and Mississippi, and east to South Carolina and the eastern Atlantic coast.
Native Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats including poor soils in mixed forests, especially on upland ridges; this oak is probably a climax tree on dry soils.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Shallow infertile soils over sandstone or limestone.
Conditions Comments: This is relatively fast-growing and long-lived oak. It is susceptible to the deadly oak wilt and must not be pruned in wilt-infested areas during the growing season. Quercus coccinea does not develop chlorosis as badly as the similar pin oak, however it is less tolerant of adverse conditions. It is harder to find in the nursery trade than pin or red oak.


Use Ornamental: Extensively planted as an ornamental tree because of its brilliant autumn color, and has been introduced into Canada and Europe. The largest known scarlet oak grows in Powell County, Kentucky.
Use Wildlife: Acorns provide food for squirrels, chipmunks, mice, deer, wild turkey, bluejays, and redheaded woodpeckers.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds


Description: Oaks are most often propagated from seed. No pretreatment is necessary. Plant immediately – outdoors or in deep containers to accomodate long initial taproot. Many oaks require cold temperatures to initiate shoot development. Protect outdoor beds with
Seed Collection: Best quality acorns are picked or shaken from the tree. Collect when color has changed to brown. Best if sown immediately as acorns lose viability quickly in storage. Short-term storage in moist, shaded saw dust or sand. Acorns to be sown immediately can be soaked in hot water for 15 min. to prevent weevil infestation. Stored seed should be fumigated with methyl bromide.
Commercially Avail: yes

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Georgia Native Plant Society - Atlanta, GA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1134 - Field Guide to Native Oak Species of Eastern North America (2003) Stein, John D. and Denise Binion
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Quercus coccinea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Quercus coccinea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Quercus coccinea


Record Modified: 2013-09-06
Research By: TWC Staff

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