Quercus coccinea; Scarlet oak
The brilliant red fall color makes Quercus coccinea, Scarlet oak, an outstanding tree in the landscape. The sharply pointed leaves are similar to those of the Quercus rubra, Red oak, and Quercus palustris, Pin oak, except its sinuses, or indentations, form a distinct C-shape.
Scarlet oak is native to the East Coast and can grow to 75 feet high with an irregular open crown. It grows best in drier soil. The rough bark is shallowly furrowed, and the acorn is distinguished by a thick cap covering two-thirds of the nut.
As implied by the tree’s common name, Scarlet oak’s glossy, dark green leaves turn a handsome red in fall. This is in contrast to the Red oak, Quercus rubra, whose fall color more closely resembles paper bag brown.
A mature specimen of Scarlet oak stands outside Founder’s Hall at Haverford College. Its fall foliage, regrettably, is boring brown, pointing to a mixed parentage with strong overtones of Red oak. A young Scarlet oak was planted this month as a welcome gift to the Class of 2012. New freshmen pitched in with shovels and planted the tree by a dormitory complex where it will grow along with these new students to the Haverford College community.