Tennessee Smart Yards Native Plants

A comprehensive database of Tennessee native plants

Red Oak, Northern Red Oak

Red Oak, Northern Red Oak

Quercus rubra (Q. borealis)

Full sun; medium to moderately dry moisture level; prefers clay loam and loamy sands but will tolerate heavy clay loams, clay, sandy and gravelly soils; strongly acid to slightly acid pH and will develop iron chlorosis in soils of higher pH.

60-75 feet height by 60-75 feet spread; blooms in spring before leaves emerge with slender, drooping, separate male and female catkins; large brown, broad acorns, ¾ – 1 ¼ inch long, in fall. Acorns require two years to mature.

Growth Rate: Medium but fast for an oak at up to 2 feet per year. Can be fast under optimal conditions.

Maintenance: All oaks are susceptible to a large number of diseases, including oak wilt, oak leaf blister, cankers, leaf spots and powdery mildew. Potential insect pests including scale, oak skeletonizer, leaf miner, oak lace bugs, borers, caterpillars and nut weevils. Notwithstanding these problems, oaks are generally considered to be low maintenance trees.

Propagation: Seed germination code C(30-45) at 41 degrees F. Has a negligible tap root and transplants easily. Takes 3-5 years before the plant really settles in and starts to grow.

Native Region: Statewide

A handsome shade tree with good form and dense foliage and is a desirable planting for lawns, parks and other large areas. Russet red to bright red leaves in fall but color is not dependable every year. Generally a durable and long-lived tree, mature at 200-300 years. Tolerant of urban conditions. Produces a good crop of acorns every 2-5 years. Cultivars available.

Very high wildlife value. Provides food for many songbirds, ground birds and mammals including deer, raccoons, squirrels and chipmunks. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. A remarkably long list of butterfly larvae feed on the leaves.

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