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Northern Red OakQuercus rubra

  • Northern Red Oak - Quercus rubra
  • Northern Red Oak - Quercus rubra
  • Northern Red Oak - Quercus rubra
  • Northern Red Oak - Quercus rubra
  • Northern Red Oak - Quercus rubra

The northern red oak has been called “one of the handsomest, cleanest, and stateliest trees in North America” by naturalist Joseph S. Illick, and it is widely considered a national treasure. It is especially valued for its adaptability and usefulness, including its hardiness in urban settings. This medium to large tree is also known for its brilliant fall color, great value to wildlife and status as the state tree of New Jersey.

Whether you’re selecting a tree to plant in your front yard or out on the farm, it’s a fast-growing species worth keeping in mind.

Hardiness Zones

The northern red oak can be expected to grow in Hardiness Zones 3–8. View Map

Tree Type

This is a shade tree, featuring a spreading canopy capable of blocking sunlight.

Mature Size

The northern red oak grows to a height of 60–75' and a spread of around 45' at maturity.

Growth Speed Fast Growth Rate

This tree grows at a fast rate, with height increases of more than 24" per year.

Sun Preference

Full sun is the ideal condition for this tree, meaning it should get at least 6 hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

Soil Preference

The northern red oak grows in acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well-drained and clay soils. While it prefers normal moisture, the tree has some drought tolerance.


This tree:
  • Grows more than two feet per year for 10 years.
  • Provides great fall color, with leaves turning russet-red to bright red.
  • Is easier than most to transplant.
  • Features alternating leaves that are 4–8" long and have 7–11 waxy, spine-tipped lobes.
  • Produces pale yellow-green catkins that appear at about the same time new foliage is expanding, typically April–May.
  • Yields acorns that are round and ¾–1" long with a flat, thick, saucer-like cap.
  • Offers great shade due to a dense crown.
  • Tolerates pollution and compacted soil.
  • Grows in a rounded shape.

Wildlife Value

Acorns from this tree are at the top of the food preference list for blue jays, wild turkeys, squirrels, small rodents, whitetail deer, raccoons and black bears. Deer also browse the buds and twigs in wintertime.


The northern red oak has been a favorite of both lumbermen and landscapers since colonial times. The tree has also found favor when transplanted in Europe. It is believed that Bishop Compton's garden, near Fulham in England, received the first red oak transplant abroad in the late 17th century. In 1924, there were over 450 acres of red oak plantations in Baden, Germany.