Quercus rubra, red oak

Red oak from North America grows across a vast area of the Eastern hardwood zone from the southern states in to Canada.

It favours deep, sandy free-draining soils but is tolerant of most soil substrates that are lime free. This deciduous tree often has a stout trunk and low branches that extend almost as far across as the tree is tall. However, if grown in tight stands, will send up a straight bole.

This oak needs full sun, like most oaks, growing large 20cm matte green leaves cut into bristle-tipped lobes.

Red oak offers the Australian farmer, gardener and landscaper the following characteristics:

  • awesome shade
  • good red-yellow to brown autumn colours
  • fast to moderate growth
  • a rounded, broad to spreading often irregular crown
  • good timber used in its home range from construction to cabinet making
  • is tolerant of rocky, dry and sandy soils
  • good fire resistance, for it re sprouts well after fire

In Canberra red oak has proved good to very good, reaching about 15m in 50 plus years on the tight upland clays of the city.

Thus, red oak is a very good shade and ornamental tree for wet to moderately dry sites on acid sands to clays, in southern Australia, where it will grow quite fast. This deciduous tree is cold hardy to around -30 C in N America, and drought hardy to 600mm on the tablelands or coastal plains in Australia. In its home range, it has grown to over 200 years old.

Other features include silver grey bark and red petioles on the leaves.

This is a handsome tree for a large garden, park or farm.

Tree shape

Spreading and rounded

Mature size

Large 12-20m

Growth rate



Shade, carbon store, firewood, ornamental, windbeak, acorns

Soil type

All soils, good in loamy sands (no lime)


Moderate to drought hardy


Bristle-tipped lobes


E North America