High in the mountains on dry, rocky ridges in obviously inhospitable growing conditions, the Scarlet Oak, or Quercus coccinea, flourishes. Because of its lower lumber value, foresters consider it a second-rate species. In the landscape, however, it is one of our best oaks as it thrives in difficult soils and challenging urban and suburban environments. Often misidentified as Pin Oak, Quercus coccinea is much more tolerant of alkaline soils.
The foliage of the Scarlet Oak is a rich, dark, almost reflective green during the growing season and an outstanding scarlet-red in the fall. This flaming autumn beauty often lasts three to four weeks. Similar in size to the other large native oaks, Scarlet Oak matures in the landscape at about 70' high and 30'-40' wide.
If Quercus alba is the standard by which we measure all trees in the White Oak group, Quercus coccinea ought to be the standard by which all trees in the Black Oak group are measured. Several close contenders do exist, but the brilliance of Scarlet Oak's fall color puts it ahead of the rest. Plant it as a specimen shade tree and enjoy its glory for years to come!
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