northern red oak

(Quercus rubra)

Conservation Status
northern red oak
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Northern red oak is a fast growing, deciduous tree rising on a single trunk from a deep, spreading root system. When it is on deep soils it develops a taproot. It is moderately long-lived, often surviving 300 or more years. In Minnesota mature trees are usually 60 to 70 tall and 36 to 42 in diameter, though individuals can reach over 110 in height.

In open areas the trunk is short and massive and the crown is extensive, broad, round, and symmetrical. Where it has competition the trunk is long and straight and the crown is small, and round. The branches are stout and widely spreading.

The bark on young trees is gray to reddish brown, smooth, and somewhat shiny. On mature trees the bark is thick and dark gray or grayish-brown. It is broken into long, smooth, flat-topped, pale gray ridges separated by shallow, dark furrows. The long, pale gray ridges have the appearance of ski trails.

Young twigs are slender, bright green, and shiny. As they age they become moderately stout and reddish-brown.

Terminal buds are reddish-brown, shiny, egg-shaped, pointed, round in cross section, and ¼ to 5 16 long. The scales near the tip may have a few brownish, silky hairs at the tip but the buds are otherwise hairless. They are surrounded by a cluster of lateral buds.

The leaves are alternate, egg-shaped, inversely egg-shaped, or elliptic in outline, 4 to 7 long, and 3 to 5½ wide. They are on hairless, ¾ to 2 long leaf stalks that are yellowish with a tinge of red, often mostly red with yellow at the base. The leaf blade is broadly tapered or nearly squared off at the base. There are 2 to 4 large primary lobes separated by U-shaped sinuses and 5 to 18 smaller, bristle-tipped, secondary lobes per side. Most of the sinuses extend less than half way to the midrib. The deepest sinuses extend 45% to 70% of the way to the midrib. The upper surface is dark green, dull, and hairless. The lower surface is yellowish-green or grayish, hairless except for minute tufts of hair in the vein axils, and sometimes covered with a whitish, waxy bloom (glaucous). Young leaves are toothed, not lobed, and are pink and downy when unfurling. In autumn the leaves turn scarlet or deep red, then brown. The name of this tree refers to the color of the autumn foliage.

Male and female flowers are borne on the same branch. Male flowers are in slender, greenish, 1½ to 3½ long catkins that hang downward from buds on branchlets of the previous year. Female flowers are bright green and appear singly or in pairs on a short stalk rising from leaf axils on branchlets of the current year. The flowers appear after the leaves in early May to late May.

The fruit is a broadly egg-shaped, to 1 long, ½ to wide acorn. They occur singly or in pairs on a short, stout stalk. A shallow, scaly, saucer-shaped cup encloses 1 5 to ¼, sometimes to , of the lower part of the nut. The cup resembles a beret that barely covers the bottom of the nut. The scales on the cup are flat and the tips of the scales are tightly appressed. The inside of the acorn cup is hairless or has a few scattered hairs. The acorns stay on the tree for two growing seasons. The kernel is white and tastes very bitter. It ripens in mid-August to mid-September of the second year. This is the largest acorn of the oaks found in Minnesota.




60 to 70




The champion northern red oak in Minnesota is on private property near the city of Spring Grove, in Houston County. In 1988 it was measured at 75 tall and 191 in circumference (61 in diameter), with a crown spread of 66.


Flower Color




Similar Species


Black oak (Quercus velutina) leaves have 2 or 3 primary lobes per side. The acorn is smaller, no more than ¾ long. The tips of the acorn cup scales are free, not tightly appressed. In Minnesota it is found only in the southeast and in Hennepin County.

Northern pin oak (Quercus ellipsoidalis) has mature bark broken into short, rough, slightly blocky ridges. Terminal buds much smaller and are 5-angled in cross section, not round. The leaf blades are more deeply lobed. Most of the sinuses extend more than half way to the midrib. The deepest sinuses extend 65% to 90% of the way to the midrib. The upper leaf surface is dull. The acorn is smaller, no more than long. The kernel is yellow.


Moderate moisture. Hardwood forests. Moderately shade tolerant when young.




Early May to late May


Pests and Diseases


Oak leaf gall midge (Polystepha pilulae)

Tubakia leaf spot (Tubakia dryina) causes brown or reddish-brown spots on the leaves of all oaks but especially those in the red oak group. It starts in early summer as small, brown, angular spots with a pale center.


This is the state tree of New Jersey and the provincial tree of Prince Edward Island.


Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Fagales (beeches, oaks, walnuts, and allies)  


Fagaceae (beech)  
  Subfamily Fagoideae  


Quercus (oaks)  
  Subgenus Quercus (high-latitude oaks)  
  Section Lobatae (red oaks)  

Subordinate Taxa






Quercus borealis

Quercus maxima


Common Names


American red oak

black oak

buck oak

Canadian red oak

common red oak

gray oak

eastern red oak

leopard oak

Maine red oak

mountain red oak

northern red oak

red oak

Spanish oak

spotted oak

southern red oak

swamp red oak

water oak

West Virginia soft red oak













The upper angle where a branch, stem, leaf stalk, or vein diverges.



A slim, cylindrical, drooping cluster of many flowers. The flowers have no petals and are either male or female but not both.



Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.



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    northern red oak      



Northern red oak foliage, October 2017, Freeborn County, Minnesota.

    northern red oak      

Northern red oak trunk

    northern red oak      

Northern red oak bark

    northern red oak      

Here is one of my fave tree pix ever, of a northern red oak (or scarlet?) in my old back yard woods in Virginia (where I fell in love with trees)

  northern red oak  


    northern red oak      


    northern red oak   northern red oak  
    northern red oak   northern red oak  

Fall Leaves

    northern red oak      


    northern red oak      



  Red Oak
  Red Oak  
  Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
Jim Hamilton

Uploaded on Jun 19, 2008

A brief species overview of northern red oak.




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Other Videos
  Trees with Don Leopold - northern red oak

Uploaded on Oct 21, 2011

No description available.

  Northern Red Oak
Fred Forester

Published on Nov 14, 2012

Zach Dubbs

  Northern Red Oak identification video (Quercus Rubra)

Published on Jul 30, 2013

Northern Red Oak identification video (Quercus Rubra)

  Quercus rubra

Published on Apr 24, 2012

No description available.

  Quercus rubra
wander van laar

Published on Jun 17, 2014

No description available.




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Location: Fairview Twp, Cass County

northern red oak  
October 2017

Location: Freeborn County, Minnesota

Northern red oak foliage, October 2017, Freeborn County, Minnesota.

northern red oak  

Location: Freeborn Co.

Northern red oak bark

northern red oak  

Location: Virginia

Here is one of my fave tree pix ever, of a northern red oak (or scarlet?) in my old back yard woods in Virginia (where I fell in love with trees)

northern red oak  

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