Oak tree on Cape Cod

Northern Red Oak

In Native Trees of the North East by Forest Keeper2 Comments


Northern Red Oak ( Quercus rubra) of the Fagaceae family is a widespread, common Oak of the open woods. It is one of the largest Oaks, occasionally 125′ high. An important lumber species, mostly used for flooring, furniture, millwork, railroad cross ties, fence posts and pilings. A popular and handsome shade tree, with good form and dense foliage. Northern Read Oak is one of the most rapid growing oaks. It transplants easily, endures cold conditions and is hardy in city conditions. The leaves tend to hang vertically on the stalks, and the lobes tend to be more triangular than in other Oak species. The leaves are smooth or only lightly hairy along the veins. The middle  lobes are largest.

Oak tree on Cape Cod

The Red Oak can be a very tall tree.

Height: 60-90′

Diameter: 1-3′

Acorns:  5/8-1 1/8″ long; egg shaped , less than1/3 enclosed by broad cup of reddish brown, blunt, tightly overlapping scales , maturing second year.

Bark: Dark grey or blackish; rough furrowed into scaly ridges; inner bark reddish.

Habitat: Moist, loamy sandy, rocky, and clay soils. Often forming pure stands.

Range: W Ontario to Cape Breton Island, south to Georgia  west to E. Oklahoma, and north to Minnesota. Up to 5500′ above sea level.


  1. I just planted two northern red oak saplings, and boy are they spindly little things. But with a little time I am expecting great things! One is out in the meadow where it can get as big as it wants. The other is at the very edge of my yard on the east side of the house — far enough away from the house I hope, but I worry that I will have a huge forest tree in a suburban yard.

    Both of these tiny skinny saplings had no more than a dozen leaves on them, but they held onto them all fall, gloriously red.

    1. Author

      Hi Laurrie. Red Oaks do have some beautiful fall color. Oaks in a Suburban yard will not necessarily grow as tall as a forest tree since they do not need to compete for sunlight. They will develop a very full crown instead of sprouting up and up. With periodic pruning you should be able to control and guide the size and structure of an Oak tree quite well.
      Nice choice of shade trees. I love the strength and stability that Oaks express!

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