Appalachian Red Oaks-picture Jason Hollinger

Appalachian Red Oaks-picture Jason Hollinger

There can’t be many trees with a botanical name beginning with Q, but the Oaks provide plenty of variety and what for the U.K. (or maybe just England?) is probably the ‘people’s choice’ as our national tree (Quercus robur).

I’ve chosen a rather large variety, which will not fit easily into smaller gardens, but I just love it, especially for its autumn foliage…

Common name: Red Oak, American Red Oak, Northern Red Oak or Champion Oak

Native areas: North America, in the eastern and central U.S. and southeast and south-central Canada.

Red Oak early in the year

Red Oak early in the year

Historical notes: The Red Oak is one of the most important oaks for timber production in North America. Quality red oak is of high value as lumber and veneer, while defective logs are used as firewood. It’s bark is also rich in tannin, making it valuable in tanning leather. It was introduced to the U.K. in 1724 and has won the R.H.S. Award of Garden Merit in 2002 (and before this in 1971). There are 3 well known, very old specimens in the U.S.:

  • Ashford Oak – A very large Northern Red Oak in Ashford, Connecticut. The tree has suffered falling limbs because of its great age. However, this tree is still a sight to behold; the trunk is 8 m (26 ft) in circumference and the root-knees are also particularly impressive.

  • Chase Creek Red Oak – This forest tree is located on a very rich steep slope in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The circumference at breast height is 6.7 m (22 ft), the height 41.5 m (136 ft) and the spread 29.9 m (98 ft)

  • Shera-Blair Red Oak – This majestic red oak tree is located in the South Frankfort neighbourhood of Frankling County, Kentucky. The circumference at breast height is 6.4 m (21 ft), with the trunk reaching higher than 40 feet before the branches begin and an estimated height of 130 feet.

Red Oak specimen Tortorth Arboretum. Picture by Velela

Red Oak specimen Tortorth Arboretum. Picture by Velela

Features: A large, broadly oval tree which does best in deep fertile soils, but tolerates most others. Under optimal conditions, Red Oak is fast growing and a 10-year-old tree can be 5–6 m (16–20 ft) tall. Trees may live up to 500 years and a living example of 326 years was noted in 2001. Red oak is easy to recognize by its bark, which features bark ridges that appear to have shiny stripes down the centre.  Young growth emerges almost yellow in the spring befoe expanding into large, broad green and lobed leaves by May. It’s autumn foliage is a rich red, turning dark reddish grey brown before falling. The acorns mature in about 18 months after pollination. Its kernel is white and very bitter. Despite this bitterness, they are eaten by deer, squirrels and birds. It appears to tolerate polluted air well.

Uses:  As a large tree the Red Oak is best used in parks and large gardens as specimen tree.

Growing conditions:  Red Oak is not planted as often as the closely related Pin Oak as it develops a taproot and quickly becomes difficult to transplant. Acorns should either be sown in the location where the tree is intended to be planted or else moved to their permanent location within the seedling’s first year. As the tree gets older, the taproot gradually shrinks and the lateral root network expands. Red Oak is easy to start from seed, however the acorns must be protected from animal predation over the winter months. As with other oaks, germination takes place in late spring when all frost danger has passed. The seedling grows rapidly for its first month, then pauses for another month, and sends out more new shoots until September when growth stops for the year. If the weather stays favorable, a third burst of growth may occur.

Mature Red Oak, autumn foliage

Mature Red Oak, autumn foliage

Further information:

Wikipedia

RHS- Quercus rubra

Barcham trees directory- Quercus rubra

Old School Gardener

Advertisements