Family: Scarlet Oak
Superficially, Scarlet Oak resembles Pin Oak (Q. palustris), but Scarlet Oak’s larger leaves and brighter autumn foliage color are different enough to make identification easy. Also, Scarlet Oak is adapted to dry, gravelly soils, and may perform better than Pin Oaks in certain sites.
Q. coccinea is fast-growing on sites where fortnightly summer irrigation is available. Its form is variable, but most Scarlet Oaks are large, round-headed trees with good branch attachment and pleasing form.
The European literature raves about the autumn colour with Scarlet Oak. In Australia, Spencer describes the autumn foliage colour as ‘deep red’, although a tree at the Riversdale Golf Course frequently lives up to the name of ‘Scarlet’ Oak.
Since Q. coccinea originates in dry, upland sites with poor soils, it should perform reasonably well in sandy soils with low organic matter. Scarlet Oak may also perform better than other species in compacted soils, although there is no trial data to support this.
Scarlet Oak has been labelled ‘short-lived’, but a tree in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne has been growing since before 1905. This is a reasonable life span for an urban tree.
Typical mature height: 20m
Useful in: broad streets, avenues, parks
Sites for best growth: well-drained, gravelly sites