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© Doug Goldman

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Inclusion in Plant ID / Comparison Guides

This photo is featured in 3 plant ID/comparison guides:

collage of Pin Oak and Scarlet Oak

Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) vs. Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)

Updated October 18th, 2022

These oaks are frequently confused, especially when used as landscaping plants, as both have deeply-lobed leaves. In the wild, these species prefer almost opposite moisture conditions and rarely occur together. Pruning of landscaping plants can also make ID difficult by obscuring shape distinctions that are obvious on wild plants. Where present, they are easily distinguished by acorns, and with more effort, by pubescence on buds and leaf shape. Although both can be found in sunny, early-successional habitats, pin oak prefers wet, often poorly-drained conditions, whereas scarlet oak is typically found on dry sites with thin, rocky soil.

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collage of Scarlet Oak and Black Oak

Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea) vs. Black Oak (Quercus velutina)

Updated November 20th, 2019

Black oak is more variable than scarlet oak. Some trees, especially young trees growing in shade, are easily identifiable as black oak, but others can be difficult to distinguish. Mature trees have similar bark. In identifications it is easier to exclude scarlet oak than black oak; black oaks can have pubescence on twigs and petioles. Acorns look similar but can be distinguished by the presence or absence of rings of pits, and the looseness of cap scales. A close view of the buds can also usually distinguish them.

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collage of Northern Red Oak and Scarlet Oak

Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra) vs. Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea)

Updated November 6th, 2019

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.

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