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Quercus rubra (Northern red oak)
Makin, Julie

Quercus rubra

Quercus rubra L.

Northern Red Oak

Fagaceae (Beech Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

This 75-100 ft., deciduous oak occasionally reaches 120 ft. in height. Its straight trunk is clear of branches for some distance above the ground and supports a wide canopy, commonly 3/4 that of height. The dark bark is striped with long, smooth plates separated by deep furrows. Leaf lobes are bristle-tipped. Fall color is can be crimson, golden-orange, or russet.

The northernmost eastern oak, it is also the most important lumber species of red oak. Most are used for flooring, furniture, millwork, railroad cross-ties, mine timbers, fenceposts, pilings, and pulpwood. A popular handsome shade and street tree, with good form and dense foliage. One of the most rapid-growing oaks, it transplants easily, is hardy in city conditions, and endures cold.


From the Image Gallery

8 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Catkin
Fruit Type: Nut
Size Notes: Up to about 120 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Red, Brown

Bloom Information

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


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: N.S. to Ont. & MN, s. to GA, LA, OK, e. KS & e. NE
Native Habitat: Mesic upland, forests; ravines; north & east slopes

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Well-drained, loamy sands.
Conditions Comments: One of the most shade-tolerant oaks. Transplants readily due to negligible taproot. Susceptible to the deadly oak wilt. Do not prune in wilt-infested areas during the growing season. Fairly fast-growing. Withstands pollution. Develops chlorosis in soils of high pH. Red oak is a handsome tree, recommended for planting in streets and parks. (Peattie)


Use Wildlife: Attracts songbirds, ground birds and mammals.
Use Food: EDIBLE PARTS: Acorns (nuts) are edible after tannins are leached or boiled out. Gather nuts during the fall from September to October. Only gather the ripe tan-to-brown acorns, rather than the unripe green ones. remove bitterness, shell the brown, ripe acorns and remove any corky skin layers, dice the meat, and boil the chunks in water from 15 to 30 minutes until the water turns brown. Then pour off the water and repeat the process until the water clears, indicating that the tannic acid has been removed. During the last boiling, salt water can be added; then the acorns can be deep fried or mixed in a soup. Finely chopped acorn meats can be added to bread doughs and muffin batters. After the leaching process, acorn meat can be frozen. To make flour, the boiled acorn meat can be split in two and dried by slowly baking in a 200 degree oven with the door cracked to allow moisture to escape. Crush or grind and use as a thickener or a flour. Another method is to roast the fresh acorn to work well in a grinder or blender. After grinding, place the flour into a cloth bag and boil to leach out bitterness. Leached acorns, after they are roasted until brittle, can be ground and used as a marginal coffee substitute. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: Acorns (seeds of nuts) and young leaves. Low toxicity if eaten. Symptoms include stomach pain, constipation and later bloody diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination.
Attracts: Butterflies , Hummingbirds
Larval Host: Gray Hairstreak

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Gray Hairstreak
(Strymon melinus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Oaks are most often propagated from seed. Stratify or plant immediately outdoors. Many oaks require cold temperatures to initiate shoot development. Protect outdoor beds with wire mesh to deter rodent predation.
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.
Seed Treatment: Stratify 30-45 days at 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

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

Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College, The - Valhalla, NY
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 400 - Natural History of Trees of Eastern & Central North America (1991) Peattie, D.C. & P. H. Landacre

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2013-06-27
Research By: TWC Staff

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