Northern red oak is native to the Midwest and is one of the faster growing oaks for the home landscape. The leaves are handsome throughout the year, emerging pinkish-red, turning lustrous dark green in summer, and changing to russet-red to bright red in autumn. Its tolerance of salt and air pollution makes it a good tree for more exposed areas.
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.
All common names:
- Residential and parks,
- City parkway,
- Wide median
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Shade tree,
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 3,
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Dry sites,
- Alkaline soil,
- Clay soil
- Moderately Tolerant
- Moderately Tolerant
- Messy fruit/plant parts
- Fall color
Seasons of Interest:
- early fall,
- mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Game birds,
- Game mammals,
- Migrant birds,
- Small mammals
photo: John Hagstrom
Tree & Plant Care
Prefers a well-drained, rich woodland site. Best in sandy, loam soil.
Tolerant of air pollution and salt.
Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.
Disease, pests, and problems
The Northern red oak develops chlorosis symptoms in high pH soils.
All oaks are suceptible to oak wilt.
Galls and mites are common insects, but not harmful.
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to eastern and south-central North America.
Bark color and texture
Young trunk and branches grayish turning dark gray with age.
Mature bark is bark gray with flat-topped ridges. Lower bark can be blocky or furrowed.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Alternate, simple leaves with 7 to 11 lobes. Each lobe has a bristle tip.
Dull dark green upper surface and slightly paler beneath in summer changing to a russet red to bright red fall color.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Borne separately on same tree. Male flowers are hanging catkins, female flowers are tiny spikes in the axils of the new leaves.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Acorns are medium brown, 3/4" to 1 inch long, and barrel-shaped. The cap is thin, flat, with appressed scales barely enclosing 1/4 of the nut.