The northern red oak is one of the most important trees for timber development in North America. Its wood has been used to make railroad ties, fenceposts, veneer, furniture, cabinets, paneling, flooring and caskets. It also makes excellent firewood.
Northern red oak hybridizes with many oaks including scarlet oak, shingle oak, swamp oak and more. It is the fastest growing of all the oaks.
Does best in rich, well-drained, acidic, sandy loams. Tolerates gravelly soils.
The Red Oak contains acorns which are edible following a procedure of boiling or soaking to remove tannins (plant compounds that may reduce your bodies ability to absorb nutrients if consumed in high amounts.)
The red oak is a good tree for planting near sidewalks and streets as it has a 2-3 foot deep root system. This is a great tree for wildlife as multiple birds and mammals feed on the seeds and acorns, such as the white-tailed deer, chipmunks, squirrels, mice, wood peckers, blue jays, grackles and many more.
Its natural habitat: Rocky or gravelly uplands.
Red oaks grow about 2 feet per year and can grow up to 75 feet at maturity. They are very attractive and ornamental trees that turn bright red in the fall.
Propagating Quercus rubra
If planting multiple oak trees, allow 35-40 feet between plantings, as the roots can spread up to 7 times their crown. It’s best to plant them 8-10 feet away from homes.
Caring for Red Oak
Easily transplanted and grows rapidly. Needs a lot of developing room. Moderate to good pollution tolerance and withstands urban conditions well. Works best in full sun.
Companion plant suggestions include Basswood, Sugar Maple, Eastern White Pine, American Beech, Bur Oak.
Prune while tree is young, as it’s more stressful on the tree to trim larger branches. Never remove more than 1/4 of the branching structure. The crown should make up about 60% of the trees height. Scaffold branches (lateral branches) should be spaced out about 18-24 inches apart. Leave about a centimetre of nub to ensure not to damage the trunk. At the very top of the tree, make sure you have a “central leader” branch which will create the round shape of the crown.
The red oak is susceptible to oak wilt and oak decline. Numerous insects can cause disease and damage.
The red oak has been a favourite of lumberjacks and landscapers since colonial times. Its acorns and bark were also an important food source for Native Americans.