Red oak (‘Quercus rubra’) is a native tree that grows in forests from Nova Scotia to Pennsylvania, and west to Iowa and Minnesota. A large tree, growing 60 to 75 feet or more in height, with an equal spread, red oak works most successfully in lawns, parks and other large areas.
As with all oaks, red oaks produce acorns, the familiar fruit consisting of the nut and cap. Acorns of red oaks grow singly or in pairs, need two years to mature, and provide an important source of food for wildlife.
Leaves of red oak can vary from tree to tree and on a single tree, but in general are 4 to 10 inches long and 4 to 6 inches wide, with pointed lobes and bristled tips. Fall color can range from goldish bronze to a bright or russet red, or to a disappointing rather drab yellow-brown. The most reliable fall color is a very handsome range of reds produced by varieties developed by growers for that feature of fall foliage.
Many types of oaks hybridize freely in the wild, making identification a challenge. Since fall colors overlap from species to species, or differ from tree to tree or year to year, fall color is not a reliable indicator. But one little tip to distinguish red oaks from white oaks is to look for the leaf tips: oaks in the red group have leaves with the pointed lobes and bristled tips, while oaks in the white group have rounded lobed and no bristles.
The red oak in the photo grows along the shore of the Mystic Lakes, just beyond the beach area.
– Submitted by Aggie Tuden, Medford Tree Warden