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Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)

Also known as Spanish oak.

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Summary

A medium to large red oak with, as the name suggests, a more southerly distribution than the northern red oak (Quercus rubra), although their ranges overlap considerably.

Range - Expand

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Native

This tentative map is based on the FHWA's ERA. This data lacks information on Canada, but also overestimates native ranges, especially around the edges, as this post explains. We have not yet reviewed or fixed this map.

USDA Plants Profile for Quercus falcata

Illinois Wildflowers Page for Quercus falcata

Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) Article for Quercus falcata

Similar Plants

Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
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Blackjack Oak (Quercus marilandica)
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Habitat

Prefers upland sites, especially those with dry, sandy soils, but also sometimes found on well-drained sites in bottomlands and near water. Found at elevations up to about 2,000 ft (610m). Tolerates both somewhat acidic and calciferous soils. Often found on steep slopes. Common in the transition zone between hardwood and pine forests. In Florida, also found in longleaf pine savannahs. Also a dominant tree in the Texas pineywoods and post oak savannahs.

Susceptible to fire, although slightly less so than water oak (Quercus nigra), but often found in fire-prone habitats due to its tendency to resprout from roots after fires, and being otherwise adapted to grow on sites that tend to burn periodically. Often moves into pine forests in the absence of fire.

Life Cycle

Seeds germinate underground after a period of cool, moist conditions. Most seeds are viable and will germinate in suitable conditions. Seedlings grow well in full sun; shade tolerance is low to medium.

Trees usually start producing seed around 25 years of age, with seed production peaking around 50-70 years. Lifespan is about 150 years.

Trees are able to resprout from the roots after being top-killed, but do not otherwise reproduce vegetatively. Resprouting is more common in younger trees.

Acorns are distributed both by squirrels and by blue jays, both of which store acorns for the winter. Gravity also helps distribute the seeds of trees growing on steep uphill sites.

Faunal Associations

Supports a wide array of insect herbivores, typical of the community of insects that feed on oaks.

The acorns, being smaller than many other oaks, are an important source of food for large birds, which help distribute their seeds.

Uses

One of the most important timber species of oak, where it is valued for its central, straight trunk. Usually considered slightly inferior to northern red oak.

Occasionally used as a landscaping plant. The northern limit of this species is due not to cold tolerance but other ecological factors, so this plant can be planted much farther north than its native range.

This species is closely related to the cherrybark oak (Quercus pagoda), which was once classified as a variety of this one. That species has a more limited distribution, but with significant overlap in the Mississippi Alluvial plain as well as some parts of the Carolinas.

Numerous other oaks of the red oak group (Quercus section Lobatae) overlap with this species in range.

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