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True to its name, the scarlet oak produces wonderful scarlet fall color. This tree is best used in residential yards rather than as a street tree. 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
  • Family (botanic) Fagaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • 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 40-75 feet
  • Mature width 40-75 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Dry sites
  • Season of interest late fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Oval, Pyramidal
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Messy fruit/plant parts
  • Wildlife Mammals, Migrant birds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Native to North America, including a few counties in Illinois. Commonly found in dry, upland sites.

Bark color and texture: 

Bark is smooth and dark gray in youth, maturing to shallowly fissured.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

Simple, alternate leaves with deep sinuses and bristle-tipped lobes are 3 to 6 inches long. Dark green in summer, they change to scarlet in fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Male flowers are in dangling catkins; female flowers are smaller and held close to the stem.  Neither are ornamentally important.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Acorns, 1/2 to 1 inch long, are topped with a cap that encloses 1/2 to 1/3 of the nut. Borne singly or in pairs.

Plant care:

Difficult to transplant due to a deep taproot. Prune oaks in the dormant season to avoid attracting beetles that may carry oak wilt.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Oak wilt is a serious potential disease problem. Insect pests include scale and two-lined chestnut borer. Galls caused by mites or insects are common, but not harmful. Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

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