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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Scarlet Oak

Scarlet Oak

(Quercus coccinea Muench.)


Scarlet Oak is usually found growing on dry, rocky upland soils throughout the upper Piedmont and the lower mountains. Although it often is abundant, the quality of scarlet oak lumber usually is poor; therefore, it rarely is used.

Its leaves are 4 to 7 inches long and 3 to 5 inches wide. They have five to nine pointed lobes deeply separated by wide sinuses that reach almost to the midrib. Lobes are toothed and pointed. In fall, the leaves turn a deep and shiny scarlet.

The oval acorn is 1/2 to 1 inch long. It is enclosed 1/2 to 1/3 of its length in a deep, bowl-like cup. The exposed end of the acorn often is marked with concentric, circular rings.

The bark on young stems is smooth and gray. On old trunks and branches, it is divided into ridges, but the ridges are not as rough as those of the black oak and not as flat-topped as those of the northern red oak. Mature bark often is spotted with gray. The inner bark is reddish.

Scarlet oak grows 60 to 80 feet high with a diameter of 1 to 2 feet and has comparatively small branches that spread to form a narrow, open, irregular crown. Scarlet oak tends to retain a number of small, dead branches. This is useful for identifying the tree.

Scarlet oak wood is heavy, hard, strong and coarse-grained. The lumber is sold as red oak and has the same uses, though it is somewhat inferior in quality. Scarlet oak is used considerably in ornamental planting.

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