Content Detail

Northern red oak is a Midwest native 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. 

  • Family (English) Beech; Oak
  • Family (botanic) Fagaceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 60-75 feet
  • Mature width 60-75 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Wildlife Game birds, Game mammals, Migrant birds, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes
  • More information


Size and form:

Northern red oak is a large tree reaching 60 to 75 feet high and wide.

Native geographic location and habitat:

Northern red oak is native to eastern and south-central North America. C-value: 7

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

It attracts game birds, game mammals, migrant birds, and small mammals.

Bark color and texture:

Young trunk and branches are grayish, turning dark gray with age and developing flat-topped ridges. Lower bark can be blocky or furrowed.

Leaf description:

Northern red oak has alternate, simple leaves with seven to 11 lobes. Each lobe has a bristle tip. Leaves have dull dark green upper surface and is slightly paler beneath in summer changing to a russet red to bright red fall color.

Flower description:

Flowers are borne separately on the same tree. Male flowers are hanging catkins, female flowers are tiny spikes in the axils of the new leaves.

Fruit description:

Acorns are medium brown, 3/4 to 1 inch long, and barrel-shaped. The cap is thin and flat, with appressed scales barely enclosing one quarter of the nut.

Plant Care:

Northern red oak prefers a well-drained, rich, woodland site. It grows best in sandy, loam soil. This tree is tolerant of air pollution and salt. Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.

List of pests, diseases and tolerances:

This tree develops chlorosis symptoms in high pH soils. All oaks are susceptible to oak wilt. Galls and mites are common insect problems, but aren’t harmful. It is tolerant of black walnut toxicity.


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