Quercus coccinea

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Scarlet oak
2014-11-02 14 15 16 Scarlet Oak foliage during autumn on Hunters Ridge Drive in Hopewell Township, New Jersey.jpg
Tree in autumn
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fagales
Family: Fagaceae
Genus: Quercus
Subgenus: Quercus subg. Quercus
Section: Quercus sect. Lobatae
Q. coccinea
Binomial name
Quercus coccinea
Quercus coccinea range map 1.png
  • Quercus acuta Raf.
  • Quercus coccinea var. cucullata Petz. & G.Kirchn.
  • Quercus coccinea var. pendula Petz. & G.Kirchn.
  • Quercus coccinea var. rugelii A.DC.
  • Quercus coccinea var. tuberculata Sarg.
  • Quercus coccinea var. undulata Petz. & G.Kirchn.
  • Quercus palustris Regel ex A.DC.
  • Quercus rubra var. coccinea (Münchh.) Aiton

Quercus coccinea, the scarlet oak, is an oak in the red oak section Quercus sect. Lobatae. The scarlet oak can be mistaken for the pin oak, the black oak, or occasionally the red oak. On scarlet oak the sinuses between lobes are "C"-shaped in comparison to pin oak (Q. palustris), which has "U"-shaped sinuses and the acorns are half covered by a deep cap.[3]

Scarlet oak is mainly native to the central and eastern United States, from southern Maine west to Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri, and south as far as Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia.[4] It occurs on dry, sandy, usually acidic soils. It is often an important canopy species in an oak–heath forest.[5][6]


Quercus coccinea is a medium-large deciduous tree growing to 20–30 m (67–100 feet) tall with an open, rounded crown.

The leaves are glossy green, 7–17 cm (2.8–6.8 inches) long and 8–13 cm (3.2–5.2 inches) broad, lobed, with seven lobes, and deep sinuses between the lobes. Each lobe has 3–7 bristle-tipped teeth. The leaf is hairless (unlike the related pin oak, which has tufts of pale orange-brown down where the lobe veins join the central vein). The common English name is derived from the autumn coloration of the foliage, which generally becomes bright scarlet; in contrast, pin oak foliage generally turns bronze in autumn.

The acorns are ovate, 7–13 mm broad and 17–31 mm long, a third to a half covered in a deep cup, green maturing pale brown about 18 months after pollination; the kernel is very bitter.[7]


Scarlet oak is sometimes planted as an ornamental tree, popular for its bright red fall color. The cultivar 'Splendens' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[8][9]


  1. ^ Wenzell , K.; Kenny, L. (2015). "Quercus coccinea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2015: e.T194079A2296706. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T194079A2296706.en. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Quercus coccinea Münchh.". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – via The Plant List.
  3. ^ University of Connecticut Plant Database: Quercus coccinea
  4. ^ "Quercus coccinea". County-level distribution map from the North American Plant Atlas (NAPA). Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2014.
  5. ^ The Natural Communities of Virginia Classification of Ecological Community Groups (Version 2.3), Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, 2010 Archived January 5, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Schafale, M. P. and A. S. Weakley. 1990. Classification of the natural communities of North Carolina: third approximation. North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.
  7. ^ Nixon, Kevin C. (1997). "Quercus coccinea". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). 3. New York and Oxford – via eFloras.org, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  8. ^ "Quercus coccinea 'Splendens': scarlet oak 'Splendens'". RHS Gardening. Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  9. ^ "AGM Plants – Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 83. Retrieved 23 September 2018.

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