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Northern Red Oak

Northern Red Oak

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Encyclopedia
Quercus rubra, commonly called northern red oak or champion oak, (syn. Quercus borealis), is an oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 in the red oak group (Quercus section Lobatae). It is a native of North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, in the northeastern United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and southeast Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. It grows from the north end of the Great Lakes, east to Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

, south as far as Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

 and states with good soil that is slightly acidic
Soil pH
The soil pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity in soils. pH is defined as the negative logarithm of the activity of hydrogen ions in solution. It ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. A pH below 7 is acidic and above 7 is basic. Soil pH is considered a master variable in soils as it...

. Often simply called "red oak", northern red oak is formally so named to distinguish it from southern red oak
Southern Red Oak
Quercus falcata, commonly known as the Southern Red Oak or Spanish Oak, is a tree in the red oak section of the genus Quercus native to the southeastern United States.-Range:...

 (Q. falcata), also known as the Spanish oak.

Description


In forests, the northern red oak grows straight and tall, to 28 m (90 ft), exceptionally to 43 m (140 ft) tall, with a trunk of up to 50-100 cm (20-40 in) diameter. Open-grown trees do not get so tall, but can develop a stouter trunk, up to 2 m (6 ft) in diameter. It has stout branches growing at right angles to the stem, forming a narrow round-topped head. It grows rapidly and is tolerant of many soils and varied situations, although it prefers the glacial drift and well-drained borders of streams. It is frequently a part of the canopy in an oak-heath forest, but generally not as important as some other oaks.


Under optimal conditions, northern red oak is fast growing and a 10-year-old tree can be 5-6 m (15-20 ft) tall. Trees may live up to 500 years according to the USDA, and a living example of 326 years was noted in 2001 by Orwig et al.

Northern red oak is easy to recognize by its bark, which feature bark ridges that appear to have shiny stripes down the center. A few other oaks have bark with this kind of appearance in the upper tree, but the northern red oak is the only tree with the striping all the way down the trunk.
  • Bark:Dark reddish grey brown, with broad, thin, rounded ridges, scaly. On young trees and large stems, smooth and light gray. Rich in tannic acid. Branchlets slender, at first bright green, shining, then dark red, finally dark brown. Bark is brownish gray, becoming dark brown on old trees.
  • Wood: Pale reddish brown, sapwood darker, heavy, hard, strong, coarse-grained. Checks in drying, but when carefully treated could be successfully used for furniture. Also used in construction and for interior finish of houses. Sp. gr., 0.6621; weight of cu. ft., 41.25 lbs.

  • Winter buds: Dark chestnut brown (reddish brown), ovate, acute, generally 6 mm long
  • Leaves: Alternate, seven to nine-lobed, oblong-ovate to oblong, five to ten inches long, four to six inches broad; seven to eleven lobes tapering gradually from broad bases, acute, and usually repandly dentate and terminating with long bristle-pointed teeth; the second pair of lobes from apex are largest; midrib and primary veins conspicuous. Lobes are less deeply cut than most other oaks of the red oak group (except for black oak
    Black oak
    Quercus velutina, the eastern black oak or more commonly known as simply black oak, is an oak in the red oak group of oaks. It is native to eastern North America from southern Ontario south to northern Florida and southern Maine west to northeastern Texas...

    which can be similar). Leaves emerge from the bud convolute, pink, covered with soft silky down above, coated with thick white tomentum below. When full grown are dark green and smooth, sometimes shining above, yellow green, smooth or hairy on the axils of the veins below. In autum they turn a rich red, sometimes brown. Often the petiole and midvein are a rich red color in midsummer and early autumn, though this is not true of all red oaks. Petioles year, about 18 months after pollination
    Pollination
    Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred in plants, thereby enabling fertilisation and sexual reproduction. Pollen grains transport the male gametes to where the female gamete are contained within the carpel; in gymnosperms the pollen is directly applied to the ovule itself...

    ; solitary or in pairs, sessile or stalked; nut oblong-ovoid with broad flat base, full, with acute apex, one half to one and one-fourth of an inch long, first green, maturing nut-brown; cup, saucer-shaped and shallow, 2cm (0.8 in) wide, usually covering only the base, sometimes one-fourth of the nut, thick, shallow, reddish brown, somewhat downy within, covered with thin imbricated reddish brown scales. Kernel white and very bitter. Despite this bitterness, they are eaten by deer
    Deer
    Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Species in the Cervidae family include white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer, fallow deer, roe deer and chital. Male deer of all species and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year...

    , squirrels and birds.

Uses


The northern red oak is one of the most important oaks for timber
Timber
Timber may refer to:* Timber, a term common in the United Kingdom and Australia for wood materials * Timber, Oregon, an unincorporated community in the U.S...

 production in North America. The wood is of high value. Other related oaks are also cut and marketed as red oak, although their wood is not always of as high a quality. These include eastern black oak, scarlet oak
Scarlet Oak
Quercus coccinea, the scarlet oak, is an oak in the red oak section Quercus sect. Lobatae. The scarlet oak can be mistaken for the pin oak, the black oak, or occasionally the red oak. On scarlet oak the sinuses between lobes are "C"-shaped in comparison to pin oak , which has "U"-shaped sinuses...

, pin oak
Pin oak
Quercus palustris, the Pin oak or Swamp Spanish oak, is an oak in the red oak section Quercus sect. Lobatae.-Distribution:...

, Shumard oak
Shumard Oak
Quercus shumardii, the Shumard Oak, Spotted Oak, Schneck Oak, Shumard Red Oak, or Swamp Red Oak, is one of the largest of the oak species in the red oak group...

, southern red oak
Southern Red Oak
Quercus falcata, commonly known as the Southern Red Oak or Spanish Oak, is a tree in the red oak section of the genus Quercus native to the southeastern United States.-Range:...

 and other species in the red oak group.
Construction uses include flooring, veneer, interior trim, and furniture.

Red oak wood grain is so open that smoke can be blown through it from end-grain to end-grain on a flat-sawn board. For this reason, it is subject to moisture infiltration and is unsuitable for outdoor uses such as boatbuilding or exterior trim.

Famous specimens

  • Ashford Oak - A very large Northern Red Oak in Ashford
    Ashford, Connecticut
    President George Washington, returning from his tour of the country in the fall of 1789, was chagrined to be involuntarily abandoned in the village on a Sunday...

    , Connecticut. The tree has suffered falling limbs because of its great age. However, this tree is still a sight to behold; the trunk is 8 m (26 feet) in girth and the root-knees are also particularly impressive. The oak is located on Giant Oak Lane off U.S. Highway 44. There are several other large oaks in the area.

  • Chase Creek Red Oak - This forest tree is located on a very rich steep slope in Anne Arundel County, Maryland
    Maryland
    Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

    . It is a high-stump coppice with three leads. It was the state champion oak in Maryland in 2002. The circumference at breast height is 6.7 m (22 feet), the height 41.5 m (136 feet) and the spread 29.9 m (98 feet)

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