Northern Red Oak

Young acorn


A versatile, fast growing and long-lived tree, the northern red oak is known for its brilliant red fall colors and its acorns that feed local wildlife.

This tree is eligible for a $100 Tree Rebate. If you’d like help with the planting, check out our RiverSmart Homes program.

More detail: Northern Red Oak as our Tree of the Month.

Common Name
Northern red oak

Latin Name
Quercus rubra

Alternate, seven to eleven lobes tapering gradually from broad bases that usually end with a pair of bristle-pointed teeth. Smooth and shiny on the upper surface; slightly hairy on the lower surface

Small green-yellow globules hanging in clusters forming catkins*

Acorn: smooth ovular-shaped bottom half ending in a shallow point, upper body capped with a textured, scaly surface

Quite stiff, steely gray with buds developing alternately or in clusters

Dark reddish gray-brown, with broad, thin, rounded ridges, scaly

Develops stout branches that form a narrow round-topped head

Usually grows 65 to 100 feet tall, 45 feet wide, and 20 to 40 inches in trunk diameter

Native Range
Ranges from the north end of the Great Lakes, east to Nova Scotia, and south as far as Georgia

Medium to large deciduous shade tree

Seasonal Colors
The leaves can turn a bright brick red in the fall

SoilPrefers slightly acidic and well-drained soils

Optimal growth with full sunlight; can tolerate medium levels of sunlight when mature, but it is unable to establish itself underneath a canopy

Similar Species
Red oak, pin oak, black oak, willow oak, southern red oak

Pests and Diseases
Northen red oak is vulnerable to oak wilt, a fungal disease that blocks water-carrying vessels and is spread easily by pruning or insects; most trees do not recover.

Of Note
Under optimal conditions, northern red oak is fast growing, and a 10-year-old tree can be 15 to 20 feet tall.

The northern red oak is one of the most important oaks for timber production in North America.

The acorns of red oak (and other oak species) were an important food source for Native Americans. To remove bitter tannins, they were boiled, leeched with ashes, soaked for days in water, or buried over winter.

The northern red oak is the state tree of New Jersey.

Photo Credits

Gertrud K.