Scarlet oak

Summer foliage of scarlet oak.

True to its name, the scarlet oak produces wonderful scarlet fall color. This tree is best used in residential yards rather than as a street tree.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

Botanical name:

Quercus coccinea

All Common Names:

scarlet oak

Family (English):

Beech

Family (Botanic):

Fagaceae

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Foliage:

  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks

Landscape Uses:

  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)

Mature Height:

40-75 feet

Mature Width:

40-75 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil

Acid Soils:

  • Prefers

Alkaline Soils:

  • Intolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Tolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Messy fruit/plant parts

Ornamental Interest:

  • Fall color

Season of Interest:

  • Mid fall,
  • Late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Oval,
  • Pyramidal

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • Yes

Wildlife:

  • Mammals,
  • Migrant birds

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Difficult to transplant due to a deep taproot.
Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.

Disease, pests, and problems

Oak wilt is a potential disease problem.
Insect pests include scale and two-lined chestnut borer.
Galls caused by mites or insects are common, but not harmful.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to North America, including a few counties in Illinois.
Commonly found in dry, upland sites.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is smooth and dark gray in youth, maturing to shallowly fissured.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves with deep sinuses and bristle-tipped lobes; 3 to 6 inches long.
Dark green in summer, changing to scarlet in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male flowers in dangling catkins; female flowers smaller and held close to the stem.  Not ornamentally important.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Acorns, 1/2 to 1 inch long topped with a cap that encloses 1/2 to 1/3 of the nut.  Borne singly or in pairs.

Location of Quercus coccinea (Scarlet oak) at the Arboretum