Northern Red Oak

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
The northern red oak, Quercas rubra, is native to North America. The northern red oak can be found in forests throughout the Great Lakes region, Midwest, up to Nova Scotia, down to Mississipi, and all the way up to Maine. As the most common species of oak in the Northeast, one can expect to run into this majestic tree fairly often. The champion oak, as it is sometimes called, grows up to 43 m (141 feet) tall and can live up to 400 years. Its name is derived from the beautiful red foliage it displays in the fall.
Adrian Bebenek
Collected Data
Date of tree entry: 
24.50 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.85 m

The Northern Red Oak's bark can be identified by its dark brownish-red color and veiny structures. These structures are about half an inch in diameter and run up the trunk of the tree.
Twigs & branches
The twigs of the Northern Red Oak grow perpendicular to the branch. Twigs are separated by about a foot.
The northern red oak produced leaves 4-8 inches long and 4-6 inches wide. There are 2-4 dominant lobes, each with 2-3 bristle pointed tips. The sharp nature of these leaves distinguishes them from other oaks. Leaves are oblong to elliptic with a deep green shine on the sun-exposed surface and dull white hairs on the underside.
Reproductive Structures
Northern Red Oaks are highly successful in regards to reproduction as they are the most common species of oak in the Northeast after the pin oak. This tree is monoecious, meaning a single tree produces both male and female flowers. The male flowers are characterized by 2-4 inch yellow catkins which can be found in groups of 3. Female flowers on the other hand are found in groups of 2-5, with ovaries and recurved stigmas. Fertilized female flowers produce fruit (acorns) over a course of two years.
Fertilized female flowers on the Northern Red Oak take about two years to produce fruit, which they bare in the form of acorns. The acorns are oblong, with dimensions of about an inch long by half an inch wide. The acorns possess a scaly scalp and short stalk. They are brownish-red.
  • Winter
  • Spring -- Flowers
  • Summer
  • Fall
Natural range of distribution: 
The Northern Red Oak is fascinating due to its robust geographical spread. It hs able to live in hardiness zones 3-8 (see attachment). The Northern Red Oak is found ubiquitously throughout the Northeast, Midwest, West, and even the warmer climates of the Southeast -- all the way down to Alabama, Mississippi, and some parts of Florida. Habitats include upland woodlands, floodplain woodlands, north- and east-facing slopes, sandy woodlands, savannahs, and riverbanks.
Origin, history, and uses: 

Historically, the acrons of oak species were an important source of food for Native American tribes. The bark of the Northern Red Oak was often used as a medicine to treat infections. 

The Northern Red Oak sees a wide range of uses across many sectors. In industry it is an important source of hardwood lumber due to its close-grain, weight, and hardiness. Lumber derived from the Northern Red Oak often ends up in furniture, flooring, and cabinets due to its ability to withstand many types of finishes. 

The Northern Red Oak is a deciduous tree and therefore loses its leaves every winter. During the spring new flowers, both male and female, are produced on the same branch. The male string-like clusters (catkins) grow 1.5 to 3 inches long. The bright red styles of the female flowers, usually in clusters of 3, are quite identifiable. During the warmer months over the summer the leaves grow to reach full size - 4-8 inches in length and 4-6 inches in diameter. During the fall they Northern Red Oak produces beautiful red foliage -- by which it attained its name.

Arbor Day Foundation. (2021). Northern Red Oak Quercus rubra. Arbor Day Foundation. 

Minnesota Wildflowers. (2021). Quercus rubra (Northern Red Oak). Minnesota Wildflowers: A field guide to the flora of Minnesota.

USDA Deparment of Agriculture. (2021). Northern Red Oak Quercus rubra Plant Guide. USDA NRCS.

Media and Arts
Shrub Canopy Area: