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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Southern Red Oak

Southern Red Oak

(Quercusfalcata Michx)


Southern red oak also is known as Spanish oak or red oak. It is found on higher ridges of the Coastal Plain and throughout the Piedmont. It seldom is found above 2,000 feet elevation. Its habitat often is dry hills of poor, sandy or gravelly soils. Occasionally, this tree is found along streams in fertile bottoms, where it reaches its largest size.

Southern red oak trees usually grow to a height of 60 to 80 feet and a diameter of 2 to 3 feet; however, heights of over 100 feet are not uncommon. Its large spreading branches form a broad, round, open top. The bark is rough, though not deeply furrowed, and varies from light gray on younger trees to dark gray or almost black on older ones.

Leaves are of two different types: (1) irregularly shaped lobes that are mostly narrow and bristle tipped, with the central lobe often being the longest; or (2) pear-shaped with three rounded lobes at the outer end.

The leaves are dark lustrous green above and tan and downy beneath. This contrast is strikingly visible in a wind or rainstorm. They average 5 to 9 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide.

The flowers appear in April while the leaves are unfolding. The fruit ripens during the second year. The small rounded acorn, about 1/2 inch long, is set in a thin, saucer-shaped cup that tapers to a short stem.

The wood is heavy, hard, strong and coarse-grained and is less subject to defects than most other red oaks in the Piedmont. It is used for rough lumber and for furniture, chairs, tables, etc. It is a desirable timber tree, especially on poorer, drier soils.

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