Southern Red Oak

4789 Princeton Rd.

Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)

Southern red oak trees (of the beech family, Fagaceae) are tall and have straight trunks which develop branches that spread out and give the tree a rounded look at the top. These trees grow to 70 and 80 feet. The leaves of southern red oaks are 5 to 9 inches long. They are dark green on the upper surface with a brown, hairy underside and have round bases and 3 to 5 bristle-tipped lobes. The lower lobes of the tree are long and narrow, which distinguishes them from other red oaks. Their leaves often have a sinuous curve in the mid-vein. During the fall, the leaves droop and turn a reddish color. The bark of southern red oaks is dark brownish-black with deep grooves. Flowers are produced in the spring and are unisexual with male catkins and female clusters. Acorns are single or in pairs and mature in the fall months, growing to about a half-inch in length with a cup covering one-third of the nut. Acorns need two seasons to mature; in the second season of autumn is when they ripen. Acorns have a high tannin content to discourage herbivory and germinate in the spring after over-wintering on the ground.

Wildlife importance

Many species of animals use southern red oak as a source of food, including squirrels, songbirds, deer, turkey and black bears. It is also a host for many insects such as a wide variety of butterfly species. Southern red oaks also provide nesting places for mammals and birds.

Economic importance

The wood of the southern red oak is a very important source of timber. Due to its solid root system and large size, it is useful in watershed protection. It is also used for furniture and construction materials. Southern red oak also has tannins useful for leather processing.


Southern red oaks are found primarily in the southeastern part of the United States. They occur from southern New Jersey and Ohio, down to northern Florida and out west to Texas and Oklahoma. Souther red oaks grow well in poor quality upload soils. They can be planted in residential areas and along roads.