Tree Blog

Quercus rubra & Quercus coccinea | Santa Cruz

Another member of the Eastern Red Oak group is Scarlet Oak (Q. coccinea), a tree with a much more limited range than Red Oak (Q. rubra). Scarlet Oak leaves in fall color can be seen in the lower five specimens shown on this page. The lobing, sinusing, and fall coloration are all typical of Scarlet Oak. The top five leaves are from a tree that would likely be called a Red Oak. Red Oak does not always have red fall color, and yellows are often seen, as here. Because of its extensive range, Red Oak exists in many ecotypes. This gives rise to the variation in fall color, and also variation in leaf shape. The five leaves shown here differ slightly from what might be considered typical for Red Oak, but fall within the species range, given the variety of ecotypes to be found in nature. The other Eastern Red Oak that has been commonly planted in California is Pin Oak (Q. palustris), which has performed miserably and is largely abandoned by the industry. Looking at the native range of Pin Oak, i.e. swamps in the upper Midwest of the US, should raise real questions about the applicability of this species to California. There is little surprise in its widespread failure.

Dave Muffly