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Featured Plant Of The Month

There is always something in bloom at the Arboretum! Use our Plants Library to plan a photo shoot or to choose one of the trails to walk. Learn more about the plants at the Arboretum by visiting our Previously Featured Plants list and our Special Seasonal Featured Plants page.


Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)

Sassafras Leaves Southern Red Oak is one of several red oak species at the Arboretum. The red oaks have sharply lobed leaves that are bristle-tipped and their acorns require 2 years to mature. Other common native red oaks occurring here include Black Oak (Q. velutina), Scarlet Oak (Q. coccinea), Northern Red Oak (Q. rubra), and Blackjack Oak (Q. marilandica). Red oaks differ from white oaks that have rounded leaf lobes or teeth without bristle tips and acorns that require only 1 year to mature. Southern Red Oak has distinctive alternate leaves which are shiny on the upper surface and rusty colored pubescent on the underside. Leaves on mature trees are deeply divided with long, sharply pointed lobed tips and 2-4 curved side lobes that are bristle-tipped. The leaf base tends to be rounded and resembles a turkey foot. Young trees may have bell-shaped leaves with 3-5 rounded bristle-tipped lobes. These leaves often resemble those of Blackjack Oak.

Southern Red Oak Acorn Southern Red Oak Bark The acorns are orange-brown at maturity and their caps cover 1/3 or less of the nut. The acorns are important food for wildlife, and the wood is used as lumber for many purposes. The dark bark has scaly ridges separated by deep narrow furrows. A closely related species, Cherrybark Oak (Q. pagoda) has been considered a variety of Southern Red Oak, but it is now recognized as a separate species. It is typically found along coastal plains in the Eastern U.S., while Southern Red Oak occurs on drier upland sites throughout the Southeast.

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University of Tennessee - Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center
901 South Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830 · Telephone: 865-483-3571 · Email: UTforest@utk.edu