Red Oak, Southern
COMMON NAMES: SOUTHERN RED OAK, SPANISH OAK, SWAMP RED OAK, SWAMP SPANISH OAK, CHERRY BARK OAK, BOTTOMLAND RED OAK, THREE-LOBE RED OAK
Quercus falcata (KWER-kus fal-KA-tah)
Fagaceae (Beech Family)
HEIGHT: 60 to over 100 feet
SPREAD: 50 to 60 foot spread
FINAL SPACING: 30 to 50 feet
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Primarily east Texas and the deep acid sandy soils.
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Large-growing, graceful tree that has a rather open top, droopy leaves and so yellow fall color. It can only be successfully introduced and grown in the acid soils of the state.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Rust-colored male flowers from terminal growth in the early spring. Female flowers at the same time on the same tree but separate and will be either single or in small clusters. Fruits are acorns that form in the fall singly or in pairs, small ½ inch long, mature during the second season.
BARK: Young trunks can be reddish brown to gray. Grayish black and broken into deep fissures and scales with age.
FOLIAGE: Foliage is simple, alternate, deciduous, with unimpressive yellow fall color most years. Leaves are variable in shape and lobbing but they tend to appear droopy and even have a wilted look. The leaves of the southern red oak will vary from 4 to 10 inches in length and from 2 to 7 inches in width. Upper and lower leave surfaces can either be hairy or hairless, all of these leaf variations can be found on the same tree.
CULTURE: Moderately fast growing
PROBLEMS: Relatively pest free in sandy, acid soils, will not grow in alkaline soils.
PROPAGATION: Grown from acorns collected immediately after releasing in the fall. They should be planted quickly or be stored in sealed containers for up to 2 years at just above freezing temperatures. Like all acorns they should not be allowed to dry out and should be planted about ½ inch deep in the soil.
INSIGHT: Other similar trees include Quercus falcata var. leucophylla which is the true cherry bark red oak, Quercus falcata var. pagodifolia is the swamp red oak and Quercus falcata var. triloba is the three-lobe red oak. There is much confusion among tree experts about the differences in all of these trees and their scientific names. According to Benny Simpson’s book, cherry bark red oak usually occurs as a single tree rather than in groves and it is thought that is the result of it being allelopathic which suppresses other seedlings from getting started within the tree’s root system.