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 tree 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. This is a common trait of many red oaks, but is particularly prominent in scarlet oaks.


Most of the eastern US.

Distribution Map


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


Leaves are glossy green, with 5 to 7 lobes, and very deeply-cut sinuses. Underside of leaf is smooth, but may have a few fine hairs between the midvein and side veins. Each lobe has several bristle tips.

Scarlet Oak


Dark gray grooves with pale gray ridges resembling ski tracks - very similar to that of northern red oak. Lower part of mature tree trunks usually have a rougher, more 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 much 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.

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. The bark of the two trees is noticeably different, with pin oak having smoother bark. Both trees tend to retain dead branches on the trunk.

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