Medium sized tree with an irregular crown and often many dead branches. The leaves are green in the summer and spring and red in the fall. The leaves are oval with very deep sinuses and bristle-tipped lobes. On young trees, the bark is a light gray-brown, but becomes darker as the tree ages. The lower part of the tree’s trunk is often enlarged, known as “butt-swell.”


Susceptible to a number of insects and diseases such as spongy moth, fall canker worm, two-lined chestnut borer and red oak borer. It’s also susceptible to fire damage due to its relatively thin bark.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Scarlet oaks are monoecious, meaning they bear both male and female flowers on the same tree. In spring, scarlet oaks produce greenish-yellow flowers that emerge in clusters. The wind carries pollen from the male flowers to the female ones. Once pollinated, the female flowers develop into acorns, the tree's distinctive fruit. The acorns, rich in nutrients, serve as a vital food source for a variety of mammals and birds.

Did You Know?

  • Scarlet oak is a popular shade tree and has been widely planted

  • Oaks are one of the top 10 trees for wildlife

  • Official tree symbol for the District of Columbia

  • Scarlet oak is shade intolerant

Sources and Additional Information