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Northern Red Oak vs Scarlet Oak

These species of the red oak group are sometimes confused, but are usually easy to tell apart. They overlap more in habitat than some red oaks, but northern red oak prefers richer sites and is more shade-tolerant, whereas scarlet oak can be found on drier sites with thin or poor soils.

Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)

A large tree and one of the major components of the forests of eastern North America, the northern red oak has a wider range than its name may suggest, extending quite far into the "deep south", but also covering a large portion of the northeastern U.S. and into Canada.
A large red oak named for the dark red color of its fall foliage; prefers dry upland sites.
Leaves have 7-11 lobes. Often broad with shallow sinuses. Often glaucous (pale, slightly bluish)
Leaves have 5-9 lobes. Usually deeply cut. Not glaucous.
Larger acorns, with the cap covering much less of the acorn.
Smaller acorns, with cap covering about half the acorn.
Bark of mature trees usually still having long, unbroken ridges with smooth pale gray on outermost layer, alternating with rougher, wide valleys.
Bark of mature trees more scaly. Vertical ridges more broken, interspersed with narrower, deeper cuts between ridges.
Buds hairless or with a tuft of hairs only at the tip. Less visibly angular.
Buds pubescent at the tip and hairless at the base, but averaging much more pubescent overall. Visibly 5-angled in cross-section.