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Scarlet Oak

Quercus coccinea


The scarlet oak is named for its bright red autumn foliage. An upland tree that occasionally produces a very large crop of acorns. This species is often mistaken for northern red oak because of the similar bark, and sometimes mistaken for pin oak because of the deeply lobed leaves. Dead branches are often retained on the trunk of the tree, giving it somewhat of a messy appearance. These dead branches are a common trait of many red oaks, but is particularly prominent in scarlet oaks.


Eastern US.

Distribution Map


Upland areas; typically dry ridges, rocky, and/or sandy soils.


Leaves are glossy green, with 5 to 7 lobes and deep sinuses. Underside of leaf is smooth, but may have a few fine hairs between the midvein and side veins. 

Scarlet Oak


Gray, furrowed or fissured, often with dark gray grooves and pale gray ridges resembling ski tracks. Very similar to that of northern red oak. Lower part of mature tree trunks often have a rough, blocky, dark gray or black bark.

Scarlet Oak


Medium, 3/4" to 1 1/4" with a coarse, scaly cap that covers up to half of the nut. High in tannin, not preferred by deer unless it's the best source of acorns in the area.

Scarlet Oak


Look-alike oaks:

Northern Red Oak - bark may be almost identical, but leaves and acorns can be easily distinguished. Northern red oak leaves have shallower sinuses than those of scarlet oak. Scarlet oak acorns have scaly caps that cover much more of the nut than those of northern red oak. Northern red oak is often found lower on ridges or hillsides than scarlet oak.

Pin Oak - leaves bare some reseblance, but those of scarlet oak have more rounded sinuses, while pin oak leaves generally have straighter or more tapered lobes ending in fewer bristle tips. Bark of pin oak is smoother and lacks the "ski tracks" of scarlet oak. Pin oak has more dense branches than scarlet oak.

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