Southern Red Oak, a Common Tree in North America

Quercus falcata, a Top 100 Common Tree in North America

Southern red oak is a moderate-to-tall sized tree. Leaves are variable but usually have a prominent pair of lobes toward the leaf tip. The tree is also called Spanish oak, possibly because it is native to areas of early Spanish colonies.

The Silviculture of Southern Red Oak

southern red oak leaves
(John Lawson/Getty Images)

The uses of oak include almost everything that mankind has ever derived from trees-timber, food for man and animals, fuel, watershed protection, shade and beauty, tannin, and extractives.

The Images of Southern Red Oak

southern red oak tree
(Katja Schulz/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0) provides several images of parts of Southern red oak. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Fagales > Fagaceae > Quercus falcata Michx. Southern red oak is also commonly called spanish oak, red oak and cherrybark oak.

The Range of Southern Red Oak

Distribution map of the southern red oak tree
Quercus falcata range map. (Elbert L. Little, Jr./USGS/Wikimedia Commons)

Southern red oak extends from Long Island, NY, southward in New Jersey to northern Florida, west across the Gulf States to the valley of the Brazos River in Texas; north in eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, southern Missouri, southern Illinois and Ohio, and western West Virginia. It is comparatively rare in the North Atlantic States where it grows only near the coast. In the South Atlantic States its primary habitat is the Piedmont; it is less frequent in the Coastal Plain and is rare in the bottom lands of the Mississippi Delta.

Southern Red Oak at Virginia Tech Dendrology

southern red oak tree
A Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata) specimen in Marengo County, Alabama. (Jeffrey Reed/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Leaf: Alternate, simple, 5 to 9 inches long and roughly obovate in outline with bristle tipped lobes. Two forms are common: 3 lobes with shallow sinuses (common on younger trees) or 5 to 7 lobes with deeper sinuses. Often resembles a turkey foot with one very long hooked terminal lobe with two shorter lobes on the sides. Shiny green above, paler and fuzzy below.

Twig: Reddish brown in color, may be gray-pubescent (particularly rapidly growing stems such as stump sprouts) or glabrous; multiple terminal buds are dark reddish brown, pubescent, pointed and only 1/8 to 1/4 inch long, laterals buds are similar but shorter.

Fire Effects on Southern Red Oak

forest fire
(Jeroen Komen/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0)

In general, southern red and cherrybark oaks up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) in DBH are top-killed by low-severity fire. High-severity fire can top-kill larger trees and may kill rootstocks as well.

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Your Citation
Nix, Steve. "Southern Red Oak, a Common Tree in North America." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Nix, Steve. (2023, April 5). Southern Red Oak, a Common Tree in North America. Retrieved from Nix, Steve. "Southern Red Oak, a Common Tree in North America." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).