Scarlet Oak vs Red Oak: [Differences]

Scarlet Oak vs Red Oak

Table of Contents

Don’t know the difference between a scarlet oak and a red oak? This blog post is for you! We’ll compare and contrast these two types of oak trees, including their leaves, acorns, and more.

By the end of this post, you’ll be an expert on scarlet oaks and red oaks!

Scarlet oak can be found on dry sites with thin or poor soils, whereas red oak prefers richer sites and is more shade-tolerant. The two species are distinguished by the size and shape of their leaves, as well as their preferred habitat.


Scarlet Oak vs Red Oak

Red oak leaves have 7 to 11 lobes and are often broad with shallow sinuses. The leaves are also glaucous, meaning they have a pale, slightly bluish color.

Glaucousness is caused by the presence of wax on the leaves that reflects light in a particular way. The leaves of the scarlet oak have 5-9 lobes, and are usually deeply cut.

They are not glaucous because scarlet oaks lack the type of wax that causes that coloration.


Scarlet Oak vs Red Oak
Scarlet oak

The acorns of red oaks are significantly larger than those of the scarlet oak. This is due in part to the fact that the cap covers less of the acorn on a red oak. Scarlet oaks have smaller acorns, and their caps cover about half the acorn.

This discrepancy in size can be attributed to the different habitats of these two types of trees; red oaks typically grow in forested areas while scarlet oaks are more commonly found in open woodlands.

The difference in habitat results in different amounts of available sunlight and nutrients, which affect the size of the acorns.


Scarlet Oak vs Red Oak
Close-up of scarlet oak bark

The bark of a mature red oak tree is characterized by long, unbroken ridges with smooth, pale gray outermost layers.

These features alternate with rougher, wide valleys. The scarlet oak bark of mature trees is more scaly and has vertical ridges that are broken and interspersed with narrower, deeper cuts between ridges.

The deeply cut valleys give the older tree’s bark a rough and shaggy appearance.


The buds of the red oak are generally hairless, but may have a tuft of hairs only at the tip. They are less visibly angular than many other types of oak buds. Scarlet oak buds are pubescent, meaning they have small, soft hairs growing on them.

They are also 5-angled in cross-section. This type of bud is generally associated with oaks that are natives of North America.


In conclusion, while both scarlet oak and red oak are beautiful trees, they each have their own unique qualities that make them better suited for different purposes.

If you’re looking for a tree to add some color to your landscape, scarlet oak is the way to go. If you want a tough tree that can grow in harsher conditions, red oak is your best bet.

No matter which one you choose, you’re sure to end up with a stunning addition to your property.

Brian Koller

Growing up on a farm in eastern PA, I’ve grown fond of wildlife and the woods and learning about the critters and firewood and everything else in-between. I made this site to share my experiences and knowledge.

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