Scarlet Oak Tree
One of our most beautiful fall trees, Scarlet Oaks, Quercus coccinea, is native to the eastern U.S. from southern Maine to northern Mississippi and west to central Missouri. Tolerant and adaptable, they will flourish outside their natural range if planted in a suitable spot.
Scarlet Oaks are hardy in zones 4 to 9. Like most oaks, they like a sunny, well-drained location with poor to average, somewhat acidic soil. South-facing slopes are favored. Average annual rainfall in their native range is 30 to 55 inches. Mature trees will reach 60 to 80 feet high with a crown spread of 40 to 50 feet. Relatively fast-growing, they may be up to 30 feet tall at 20 years. The crowns are rounded and open, creating dappled shade.
The deeply lobed, leathery leaves are 3 to 7 inches long. Glossy green in the summer, they change to brilliant scarlet in the fall. Trees may retain their leaves well into the season, a characteristic of oaks. Inconspicuous yellow-green catkins (male flowers) and flowers with petals (female flowers) bloom from April to May. Acorns develop over the summer and are 1/2 to 1 inch long. Trees bear an abundant acorn crop once every several years, attracting squirrels, blue jays, and other acorn-loving animals and birds.
Scarlet Oaks are drought-tolerant, long-lived, and prone to few pests or diseases. The strong wood resists storm damage. They are considered low maintenance.
Scarlet Oaks are valued as landscaping and street trees, where their summer shade helps to keep their area cool. Because of their height and spread at maturity, they should be planted well away from overhead wires and buildings. Ideal locations are lawns, parks, and school or corporate campuses. Since the trees and leaves are not toxic to other plants, single trees may be featured as specimens in larger landscape groups. Alternatively, several trees may be planted together as a grove.