23. Red Oak

(Quercus rubra)

Other Common Names: Northern Red Oak, Champion Oak

Family: Fagaceae

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Red oaks contribute to the substantial grove between Smith Hall and Suzzallo Library. Originally this area was part of the University's first International Grove, planted in 1932. Now some of the oaks are 100 feet (30 meters) tall. Among oaks this eastern North American species is distinguished by its large, shallowly but sharply lobed leaves, and huge, comparatively smooth-barked trunk. Red oaks are easily identified by the ridges in their bark that appear to have shiny stripes down the center. A few other oaks have this feature high up on their trunks, but Red oak is the only species that has the stripes all the way down the trunk. Its acorns, the size of large cherries, are produced abundantly. The foliages turns gold or red in autumn.

The wood of this important American lumber source is coarse grained, hard, strong and heavy, but not highly durable. It is used for flooring, furniture, veneers and various aspects of construction. The grain of Red oak wood is so open that smoke can be blown through the grain of the wood if cut parallel to the trunk. As with all oak species, the acorns are an important source of food to many species of wildlife and for several Native American tribes at one time. The bark of this species also provided many important medicinal properties to the tribes.

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