Northern Red Oak

Quercus rubra
Fagaceae (oaks)

A large tree with a tall, straight trunk; large, spreading branches; and a rounded crown.

Leaves alternate, simple, 5–9 inches long, with 7–11 bristle-tipped lobes cut halfway to the midrib. Lobes are uneven in size and length, those along the upper half short and broad. Upper surface smooth, yellow-green; lower surface smooth with occasional tufts at the intersection of the veins.

Bark greenish-brown to gray, becoming brown to black with age. Grooves shallow, ridges wide, flat-topped, grayish bark appearing as stripes. Bark on upper trunk rough and shallow-fissured, with broad, smooth streaks; bark on lower trunk gray to black, deeply furrowed.

Twigs slender, reddish-brown, slightly hairy at first becoming smooth and shiny. Buds reddish, fringed with hair.

Flowers April–May, in catkins.

Fruits September–October, acorns, reddish-brown, shiny, 1–1¼ inches long, barrel-shaped, hairy at the cup end. Cup encloses about ¼ of the nut. Acorns ripen in autumn of second year.

Height: to 100 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs on well-drained soils of moist ravines and bottomland sites, north- and east-facing upland slopes and on slopes at the bases of bluffs. Thrives on fertile, sandy loam soils. Widespread in the eastern United States, it was long ago introduced into Europe as a landscaping tree, and its range is currently spreading in western Europe.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Human connections: 
To the lumber industry, northern red oak is less desirable than white oak. It is used for bridge timbers, cross ties, flooring, clapboards, rough construction lumber, furniture, veneer, interior finishing and fuel. Its attractive bark and noble look makes it a popular street and park tree.
Ecosystem connections: 
The acorns of red oaks are not as sweet as those of white oaks, but they are nevertheless eaten by an array of wildlife, including blue jay, woodpeckers, turkey, mice, squirrels, raccoon and deer. As trees mature, grow old, die and decay, they offer sites for nests and dens to many animals.
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