or northern red oak is a medium to tall tree, reaching a potential height
of approximately 60-90 feet at maturity. The trunk is broad, reaching two
to three feet in diameter on the largest of trees, and may flair outward
slightly at the base. The large, spreading branches form a broad crown.
Red oak is relatively fast growing on good soils and requires high light
levels to grow.
in mesic upland forests on rich, well-drained soils. It can occasionally
be found in wetter upland forests and on dry slopes, however. It is present
in almost every county in Illinois.
reproduces from both seeds and root sprouts. Its seedlings do not tolerate
shade. They require a gap in the canopy to grow to maturity. Red oak is
a rapidly growing, long-lived tree. The oldest of the red oaks may live
to 300 to 500 years of age, but these are the exceptions. The average age
of most red oaks today is less than that.
ranges in color from a brownish gray to dark gray, and has wide ridges
separated by shallow fissures.
are slender, reddish-brown, and smooth.
which are terminal, are dark reddish brown and smooth.
to elliptical leaves are alternate
and have 7 to 11 shallow, bristle-tipped lobes (the lobes are incised less
than half the distance to the midrib of the leaf). They are 5 to almost
10 inches long, and from 5 to 7 inches wide. The leaf stalk is often slightly
red. The surface of the leaves is dark green and the underside is paler
green. Both surfaces are often smooth but may have minute hairs, especially
along the veins on the underside of the leaf. The veins are usually raised
on both surfaces of the leaf.
and female flowers occur on the same tree as separate flowers. The male
flowers are typical of the oaks, and appear in the spring just before leaf
out as drooping, yellowish catkins. The female flowers appear in clusters
of 1 to 3, and are small, red, and without petals.
are produced biennially. They can occur singly or in pairs, with or without
stalks. They are light brown and about 1.5 inches long. The reddish brown
cap is saucer shaped and covers less than a quarter of the nut.
has light-colored, hard, close-grained wood that is used for a variety
of purposes from fence posts and flooring to furniture. Native Americans
used red oak for medicines to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive
disorders, respiratory diseases, and skin infections.