Quercus coccinea, the scarlet oak, is an oak tree valued for its vivid red fall color. Scarlet oaks are deciduous trees belonging to the Beech family, Fagaceae. They are quite often confused as being red oak, black oak, or pin oak. They have a pyramidal shape similar to pin oaks, but growing more rounded in its prime. With great age, it develops an uneven and expansive crown. You will find other varieties of oak trees, including the live oak, and English oak, so it is important to know the facts on all of them before you make a decision.
Quercus coccinea Facts and Info
Scarlet oaks grow to 75’ h x up to 50’ w. They have simple, deciduous, glossy green leaves, set in a alternating pattern on the stem. The leaf lobes are pinnate, or featherlike, in arrangement. The leaves, which turn an intense red in fall and colors up later than many other oaks, but stays on the tree into winter. Leaves cluster mostly at the twig tips.
Young scarlet oak trees have grayish brown bark, but the bark on older trees turns gray-black and acquires uneven ridges. Male catkins and female spikes occur in spring at the same time the foliage unfurls. Every 2 years, it produces acorns up to 1” long and wide, sometimes paired, with a deep, close, shiny cap.
Landscape Use of Quercus coccinea
Quercus coccinea is used as a shade tree or ornamental lawn specimen. When possible, scarlet oak is worth saving during construction. It originates in sandy acid soils in eastern and central U.S. It is hardy in Zones 4-7 and grows in full sun. It prefers dry, sandy, acid soil.
This variety is less likely to develop iron chlorosis in high pH soils than pin oak. It’s hard to transplant and can be messy in fall when acorns ripen. Scarlet oaks are low maintenance and have few problems, although some problems such as anthracnose, mildew, rust, leaf spots, oak wilt, and galls have been reported in some specimens.