29 Incredible Facts About Red Oak Trees

Beautiful, old, red oak (quercus rubra) in the middle of a green meadow in the park

Red Oak trees are one of the most beautiful and abundant trees in the United States of America. With their vibrant red-colored autumn leaves and their beautiful built and canopies – Red Oak trees are an absolute sight to see.

There are so many incredible facts about Red Oak Trees. Their wood is porous, Red Oak Trees are more abundant than White Oak Trees, they can grow up to 80ft tall, have bitter acorns and don’t produce acorns until they’re at least 20 years old!

If you want to learn some amazing facts about Red Oak Trees – keep on reading, because we have the facts coming!

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1. Red Oak Trees Are Named After Their Vibrant Fall Colors

First things first, Red Oak Trees are named after their beautiful, vibrant fall colors – and you guessed it – Red Oak Trees’ autumn color is red!

Red Oak Trees maintain their beautiful red fall colors longer than most deciduous trees. Fading to reds and oranges and sometimes browns, most Red Oak Trees are red, and they surely will wow you!

It is said that the Red Oak Tree has the best fall color – and listen, we love all trees, but we may be a little biased when it comes to Red Oak – since Red Oak Trees are just that beautiful in the fall.

2. Red Oak Trees Have Red Wood

Along with their red fall leaves, Red Oak Trees also provide red-toned wood.

The sapwood of a Red Oak Tree is a white to light brown, and the heartwood is a redder color, mixed with pink and brown.

Red Oak Tree wood is very much comparable to a White Oak Tree’s wood; however, a Red Oak has a much more coarse texture and smaller rays.

3. Red Oak Trees Are Porous

Another attribute to why Red Oak Tree’s wood burns faster is because Red Oak is porous.

Red Oaks are porous, which means more water can get into the wood, which also means it is better used indoors!

Red Oak Trees drink a lot of water and take longer to dry because of this. Since the dry time is longer, although they burn for a shorter period of time, the seasoning of the firewood takes up to 3 years.

4. Red Oak is Used in Our Kitchens

Since Red Oak Trees are more porous, they are typically used for construction purposes for the interiors of our homes.

Red Oak Tree wood is commonly used in the construction of our kitchen cabinets and hardwoods.

Do you know when the cabinet designer sells you on the upscale oak cabinets rather than those particleboard ones? Well, the truth is – it’s not just to make the seller more money – Red Oak is actually a really durable, strong, long-lasting cabinet option!

Although porous, Red Oak is also used outdoors in fencing and rail-road ties. Because it is less dense than White Oak, Red Oak Tree wood provides a better recoil – which is why it is used for certain outdoor structures.

5. Shiplap is Made of Red Oak

We all know how popular shiplap is, right? It’s arguably one of the most popular design trends of the decade, and of course, there are many different options to use, but Red Oak is definitely one of the best!

Red Oak Tree wood is perfect for shiplap because of its great sanding, painting, and staining capabilities.

Since it is dense but not too dense like White Oak, Red Oak can be used in planks as a shiplap on your wall and will not be too heavy for the wall to hold. It is also family-friendly, as it is durable and can be easily touched up when needed.

Red Oak Tree wood also has a beautifully knotty finish – which gives some great character to the planks before you even add your design touch to them!

6. Ohio Holds the Largest Red Oak Tree

That’s right – the Buckeye State is also home to the largest Champion Red Oak Tree, which is the largest known red oak tree in the entire country!

With a trunk circumference of 337 inches, a height of 92 feet, and a crown spread of 103 feet, this gargantuan Red Oak Tree took the title of champion (largest red oak tree) in 2019.

7. Red Oak Trees Can Live for Five Centuries

Yes, you read that right – Red Oak Trees can live up to 500 years old; however, they really only do well for 150 years and start to deteriorate thereafter.

Each time a Red Oak Tree is planted, it has the potential to last through a half-century worth of history. Although most do not, there is one that has surpassed life expectancy three-fold.

You can learn more about how long common oak trees live here.

8. Red Oak Tree Firewood Burns Faster Than White Oak Tree Wood

When compared to a White Oak Tree, a Red Oak Trees firewood burns much faster. Now, is this a pro or con? Well – that’s up to you!

Since Red Oak firewood is less dense than White Oak firewood, it burns for shorter periods of time. Red Oak Tree is still considered one of the best firewood there is; however, it will burn for a shorter amount of time.

The thing that makes this a personal preference is whether or not you have the time to watch a White Oak Tree firewood burn until it puts itself out, or do you want to go with a wood that burns a little faster like the Red Oak Tree wood?

However, white oak is actually the better firewood overall. You can learn more about why White Oak is better than Red Oak Tree firewood here.

9. The Oldest Living Red Oak Tree May Be 1500 Years Old

I say it can be because no one’s really sure of its age, but it is definitely known to be at least 800 years old, and at most, 1500 years old.

The Pechanga Great Oak Tree is the oldest living Red Oak Tree, and it is located in Temecula, California. The Pechanga Great Oak Tree has a circumference of 20 feet and is nearly 100 feet tall.

Still alive today, this Red Oak Tree is located right along the borders of the land granted to the Pechanga people in 1882. The Red Oak Tree was part of a purchase deal in 2001 by a Pechanga Tribe.

The Pechanga Great Oak Tree produces acorns every 2-3 years, and to this day, when the acorns fall to the floor, they are collected and put into pots. People call them the children of this amazing Red Oak Tree.

10. There Are More States That Have Red Oak Trees Than White Oak Trees

Unlike the White Oak Tree, a Red Oak Tree’s span is much larger, and a Red Oak Tree is seen in way more states than a White Oak Tree.

A Red Oak Tree is native to North America and can be seen all the way in the western states like California, to the central states like Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota, and eastern states such as Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, and all along the east coast up to North Carolina. 

Red oak colored leaves in autumn with white grass in foreground

11. Northern Red Oak is The New Jersey State Tree

With its large national span, the Red Oak Tree is also the national tree for the eastern state of New Jersey.

In 1950 the Red Oak was deemed the National State Tree of New Jersey by the governor and the state assembly. They chose this tree because it signified strength, dignity, structural beauty, and long life.

In New Jersey, the largest Red Oak Tree is located in Warren County near the Musconetcong River, with a circumference of 20 feet.

12. Red Oak Trees Resist Salt in The Winter

Usually, in the suburbs, if you live in an area where there are sidewalks and grass in the front of your house – Red Oak Trees are the perfect tree to plant alongside the street.

Red Oak Trees resist the salt used on the roads and sidewalks during the winter for snowmelt, making it a perfect sidewalk tree in the states that get tough winters!

13. A Red Oak Tree is Called the Mighty Oak

A Red Oak Tree holds the nickname the Mighty Oak because of its extremely deep root system and fast-growing nature.

The Mighty Oak is considered mighty because it grows tall and straight and is one of the only trees that can grow a 30-foot trunk before branches start to form on it! Sounds pretty mighty to us.

14. Red Oak Trees Are The Most Important Timber Tree

A Red Oak Tree grows so fast that it is one of the most important trees that are used for timber.

Since you can plant a Red Oak tree and see significant growth in a few years’ time, the tree is often used as a construction material – with cabinets, veneers, flooring, interior trim, and furniture.

15. Red Oak Trees Are Easy to Stain

Red Oak Tree wood is commonly used in the furniture-making business because of how easy it is to paint and stain!

Since the Red Oak Tree wood is porous, stain gets deep into the wood, leaving it with lasting color for years and years to come.

A porous wood is great for staining and sealing, and because it is more cost-effective than white oak, it is commonly used in fencing and decks because of its ability to be customized with stain and paint.

If you’d like to learn more about white oak trees, you can check out our white oak tree fact list here.

16. Red Oaks Tolerate Shade And Grow Best in Full Sun

If you see a small red oak tree in the shade, the chance of it being a few decades old is actually possible.

Red Oak Trees like the shade; they really do – but they won’t grow to their highest potentials unless they have full sun. Once Red Oak Trees get a taste of the sun, they start to rapidly grow to those impressively tall heights that we love.

17. Red Oak Trees Can Grow to The Size of 65 Bowling Pins Stacked on Top of Each Other

Red Oak Trees can grow up to 80 feet – the size of 65 bowling pins stacked on top of each other! However, in order to grow to these amazing heights – they need a few things!

Red Oak Trees need a ton of sun to grow, love loamy and moist soil, and love moisture!

18. Red Oak Trees Grow At Least 2ft Per Year

The truth is – Red Oak Trees just grow really fast.

Red Oak Trees can grow more than two feet each year and can hit up to three feet in a year’s time. A Red Oak Tree will continue to grow at that rate for at least the first 20 years until it starts to reach mature heights from 60-75 feet.

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Old northern red oak tree (Quercus rubra) with colorful autumn leaves in a park.

19. The Bark of Red Oak Trees Have Zebra Stripes

Okay, not actual zebra stripes, but the bark of the Red Oak tree contains irregular shiny stripes that do resemble the stripes of a zebra!

Unique to the Red Oak Tree, the shiny stripes intertwined in the fissures of the dark and ashy colored bark are a key way to identify a Red Oak Tree.

Like the bark of a Red Oak Tree ages, the bark develops furrows that alternate with the ridges. They will almost look like cracks in the bark.

20. A Red Oak Tree’s Acorns Are a Superfood

Acorns are the fruit of the Red Oak Tree. Although technically a nut, the Red Oak Tree produces up to 1,000 acorns a month and up to 1,000,000 in the entire lifetime of the tree!

A Red Oak Tree’s Acorns are considered a superfood, especially for our wildlife. An acorn produces carbohydrates, fats, and proteins – all of which can provide nutrients to our wildlife and providing nutrition to our earliest ancestors.

22. A Red Oak Tree’s Acorns Are Bitter

Compared to a White Oak Tree’s Acorns, a Red Oak Tree has bitter-tasting acorns.

The acorns from Red Oak Trees are higher in tannic acid than those from white oak trees, which makes them bitter for deer and less desirable than the white oak acorns.

However, this quality serves an important purpose for the acorns of the Red Oak Tree – it makes them stay viable for longer. Fewer animals go for them, which means more are readily available.

If you’re interested, you can learn more about the major differences between Red Oak Trees and White Oak Trees here.

23. Blue Jays Love Red Oak Trees And Plant Them Each Year

Blue Jays, like squirrels, are scattered hoarders. This means that when finding food, these birds bury their excess stash in a variety of different places until they can return to eat it!

Blue jays, which have an affinity towards Red Oak Tree acorns, tend to collect more food than they can eat and unintentionally plant Red Oak Trees each time they bury an extra acorn!

24. Red Oak Trees Are Easy to Transplant

Red Oak Trees are preferred by landscapers nationwide for their ease of transplant.

If you need to transplant a Red Oak Tree, the best time would be in the Spring, when the plant is coming out of its dormant stage and starting to bloom.

During the Spring, you don’t have to worry about extreme temperatures that will add extra shock to the tree, as being transplanted will be shocking enough.

25. A Black Oak Tree is Actually a Red Oak Tree

One of the wildest Red Oak Trees is the Black Oak Tree!

Since the Black Oak Tree has a very dark, almost black bark, it’s been given the name Black Oak. But the interesting thing is, the bark of the inside of a Black Oak Tree is not what you think – it’s actually a yellow/orange color.

Still considered a Red Oak Tree because of its distinctly pointed lobed leaves, a Black Oak Tree is a true phenomenon.

26. A Red Oak Tree Has Pointed Lobed Leaves

Branches of oak tree (quercus rubra) with autumn red sunlit leaves in forest at sun day

One distinct feature of oak trees, in general, is their lobed leaves! However, a Red Oak Tree has pointed lobed leaves, where a White Oak Tree has rounded!

The leaves of Red Oak Tree have 7 to 11 pointed, waxy lobes and are a dark green color. The bottoms of the leaves have tiny hairs that run along large leaf veins. Overall, a Red Oak Tree’s leaves are very thin.

27. Deer Love Red Oak Trees

Red Oak Trees are so important for deer nutrition, and the Red Oak Trees often fill the gaps when there is not enough food available for deer and other animals. 

Although deer prefer the sweeter acorns like in White Oak, compared to the bitter acorns in Red Oak Trees, they are a source of nutrition for deer when other food is not available.

While White Oak Tree acorns will decay and rot away fairly quickly, Red Oak Tree Acorns will remain edible for far longer, making them an important part of deer nutrition.

28. Red Oak Trees Don’t Produce Acorns Until 20 Years Old

Red Oak Trees don’t start producing acorns until they are about 20 years old. Peak production of acorns doesn’t start until the Red Oak Tree is 50-70 years old, and then, around 80 years old, acorn production slows down.

However, just because the Red Oak tree is producing acorns doesn’t mean that the acorns are a good crop! Every 4-10 years is when a Red Oak tree produces a quality acorn, as it takes about 18 months to 2 years for each acorn to grow. 

29. Red Oak Trees Are Monoecious

In Spring, a Red Oak Tree produces both male and female flowers. The male flowers produce the pollen, and the female flowers produce the eggs.

The male flowers are called Catkins and are derived from the Dutch word katteken. The word kattekan means kitten, and the Catkins are arranged in drooping clusters, which actually resemble that of a cat’s tail.

Red Oaks Are Amazing

This isn’t an opinion; it’s a fact – because Red Oak Trees are truly amazing. With their vibrant colors, their abundance of fruit, with astronomical heights, with all their uses for people and animals, and more, Red Oaks are a one-of-a-kind tree.

You can learn more about the amazing ways that oak trees help the environment here.

References:

Carreiro, M. M., Howe, K., Parkhurst, D. F., & Pouyat, R. V. (1999). Variation in quality and decomposability of red oak leaf litter along an urban-rural gradient. Biology and Fertility of Soils30(3), 258-268.

Department of Environmental Protection, https://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/forest/red_oak.htm#:~:text=Department%20of%20Environmental%20Protection&text=Governor%20Alfred%20E.,structural%20beauty%2C%20and%20long%20life.

“Home.” Pechanga Band, https://www.pechanga-nsn.gov/index.php/history/the-great-oak.

Quercus Alba L, https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/misc/ag_654/volume_2/quercus/alba.htm

Sander, I. L. (1990). Quercus rubra L. Northern red oak. Silvics of North America2, 727-733.

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