Southern red oak

Quercus falcata
Family: Fagaceae

Natural Historysouthern red oak branch
Leaves and acorns of southern red oak
Photo credit: Larry Korhnak, University of Florida

The southern red oak is also known as Spanish oak, probably because it is native to areas of early Spanish colonies. It is a fast-growing species and is sometimes confused with turkey oak, since both have deeply lobed, bristled leaves. The southern red oak has a characteristic, bell-shaped leaf base, while turkey oak has a 'v' base, which reaches to the petiole.

Habitat & Range

Southern red oak grows best in dry, upland sandhills. It is often found in mixed hardwood stands or occasionally with pines. While primarily found in the southeastern United States, the range of southern red oak extends from southern New Jersey and Ohio, south as far as north Florida and west to Oklahoma and Texas. It is rarely found in the northern Atlantic states.

Wildlife Use

Many wildlife species, including squirrels, deer, wild turkey, quail, and numerous songbirds, feed on the acorns of the tree.

Human Use

The durable, coarse-grain wood of the southern red oak is used for lumber, flooring, and construction materials, as well as some furniture making. It is a significant source of timber in the southeastern United States. Southern red oak has a high heat value, making it a good fuel wood. It contains tannins that are used in a process to cure leather. The large size and solid root system of the tree make it useful in watershed protection. The trees help to maintain the stability of the surrounding soils. In addition, the southern red oak is often used as a street-side landscape tree. Its large size and broad crown provide valuable shade.


Identifying Characteristics

Size/Form: Southern red oak is a fairly large tree which may grow from 70 to 80 feet tall and reach a diameter of 2 to 3 feet. It generally has spreading branches forming a broad, open, well-rounded crown.
Leaves: The 5 to 9 inch long leaves are simple, alternately arranged and tardily deciduous, with leaves persisting into the winter months. While various leaf types may be present, most are deeply lobed, with 3 to 5 bristle-tipped lobes per leaf. The middle terminal lobe is upright, while the outer lobes are frequently long, narrow, and sickle-shaped. Leaves are dark, lustrous green and smooth on the upper surface, with rusty pubescence on the undersides. The leaf bases form an inverted- bell shape. Leaf petioles are flattened, slender, and 1 to 2 inches long.
Twigs: The twigs are stout and orange-pubescent at first, becoming glabrous and dark red in the second season. The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous.
Bark: The bark is thick, dark, brownish-black and deeply furrowed, with small, rough scales.
Flowers: The flowers are unisexual, monoecious, and are solitary or in few-flowered spikes on stout, hairy stalks.
Fruit: The fruit is a nearly globular-shaped acorn, about ½ inch long with a slightly hairy, saucer-shaped cup. The acorns may grow solitary or in pairs.
Similar Trees on the Florida 4-H Forest Ecology Contest List:
There are three other trees on our list that have simple, alternate, pinnately-lobed leaves.



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