501 Quercus coccineaCommon Names: scarlet oak Family: Fagaceae (beech Family)
A member of the red oak group, scarlet oak grows 60-100 ft (18-30 m)tall with a trunk 1-3 ft (30-91 cm) in diameter and a narrow crown. Specimens grown in the open, have a wider, more spreading crown. The bark is dark gray and smooth, becoming almost black, rough and scaly with age. The deciduous leaves are 3-6 in (7.6-15 cm) long with 7 (rarely 9) deep lobes. The lobes are so deep they almost reach the midvein. The tips of the lobes end in several needlelike bristles. Autumn leaf color is usually a brilliant scarlet red and persists well into the season. The acorns are egg shaped and are 0.5-1 in (1.3-2.5 cm) a half to 1 in (2.5 cm) long with a cup that encloses a third to a half of the nut. 'Splendens' is a selection with particularly beautiful fall foliage.
Scarlet oak, Quercus coccinea, occurs in the the eastern US from southern New England and New York, west to Indiana, southern Illinois and Missouri, and south to Georgia, Alabama and northern Mississippi. Growing mainly at elevations above 2000 ft (610 m), scarlet oak is a tree of upland forests, ridges and hillsides, where it commonly grows in association with chestnut oak (Q. prinus), black oak (Q. velutina), white oak Q. alba, sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua, and various hickories.
CultureScarlet oak is a fast growing tree that does well on poor, sandy, even gravelly, soils. Light: Although saplings can persist in the shade, scarlet oak won't really start growing until it gets full sun. Moisture: Prefers well drained soils and is drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9. Propagation: Propagate from acorns. Scarlet oak can be difficult to transplant and success usually depends on starting with small, container grown specimens. The selection, 'Splendens' is propagated by grafting onto seedlings of the species.
Scarlet oak, with its dependable bright red autumn foliage, is an outstanding shade and street tree. It can be difficult to locate in nurseries, but is worth searching for. In many respects, including general vigor, site tolerance, adaptability, growth rate and fall color, scarlet oak is superior to other, morphologically similar red oaks with which it is sometimes confused. Despite the difficulty in obtaining it, scarlet oak is widely planted in eastern North America and Europe, and is a favorite in England.
White tailed deer, squirrels, turkeys and other wildlife relish scarlet oak acorns. The wood is a rich reddish brown, coarse grained, heavy and strong, and when harvested, usually mixed with the wood of other red oaks.
Scarlet oak is superficially similar to pin oak (Q. palustris), red oak (Q. rubra), shumard oak (Q. shumardii), and southern red oak (Q. falcata), and is sometimes confused with these species in the trade. The acorn cups of pin oak and red oak are like shallow saucers, enclosing only a quarter or less of the nut, unlike those of scarlet oak which are like bowls, enclosing a third or more of the nut. The acorn cups of shumard oak are intermediate, enclosing about a third of the nut. The lobes on the leaves of red oak and southern red oak are cut less than half way to the midveins, whereas the leaf lobes of scarlet oak are much deeper, cut considerably more than half way to the midveins.
Steve Christman 11/28/02; updated 10/15/03, 11/09/07