Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Quercus rubra

Introductory

SPECIES: Quercus rubra
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Tirmenstein, D. A. 1991. Quercus rubra. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].
ABBREVIATION : QUERUB SYNONYMS : Quercus borealis Michx. f. Querucs borealis Michx. f. var. maxima (Marsh.) Sarg. Quercus maxima (Marsh.) Ashe SCS PLANT CODE : QURU COMMON NAMES : northern red oak red oak common red oak gray oak eastern red oak mountain red oak TAXONOMY : Northern red oak is a member of the red oak-black oak subgenus (Erythrobalanus) within the order Fagales [11]. The currently accepted scientific name of northern red oak is Quercus rubra L. [69]. The epithet Q. rubra was formerly applied to several species of oak including the southern red oak (Q. falcata) [13,69]. Some later taxonomists rejected the appellation Q. rubra because of past ambiguity and in 1915 identified northern red oak as Q. borealis [69,101]. In 1950, the name Q. rubra was restored [101]. Most current authorities prefer the epithet Q. rubra, although Q. borealis is still occasionally encountered in the literature. The following varieties are commonly recognized [54]: Quercus rubra var. borealis (Michx. f.) Farw. Quercus rubra var. rubra Northern red oak hybridizes with many oaks including scarlet oak (Q. coccinea), shingle oak (Q. imbricata), swamp oak (Q. palustris), willow oak (Q. phellos), scrub oak (Q. ilicifolia), northern pin oak (Q. ellipsoidalis), black oak (Q. velutina), blackjack oak (Q. marilandica) and Shumard oak (Q. shumardii) [69,93,101]. The following hybrid products have been identified: Q. X runcinata (A. DC.) Engelm. (Q. imbricata x Q. rubra) Q. X heterophylla (Michx. f.) (Q. phellos x Q. rubra) Q. X hawkinsiae Sudw. (Q. rubra x Q. velutina) Q. X riparia Laughlin (Q. shumardii x Q. rubra) Q. X columnaris Laughlin (Q. palustris x Q. rubra) Q. X fernaldii (Q. ilicifolia x Q. rubra) LIFE FORM : Tree FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY

DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES: Quercus rubra
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Northern red oak is widely distributed throughout much of the eastern United States and southeastern Canada.  It grows from Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick southward to southwestern Georgia and Alabama [39,101].  Northern red oak extends westward through Minnesota and Iowa, south through eastern Nebraska and Kansas to eastern Oklahoma [101].  It occurs locally in eastern and southwestern Louisiana and western Mississippi [39,69]. The variety rubra grows in Georgia and Alabama, northward through Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia to New England [93,104].  The variety borealis occurs farther north than variety rubra does [30]. Variety borealis occurs in Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina in the South and extends northward throughout New England to Maine [39,104]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES10  White - red - jack pine    FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine    FRES14  Oak - pine    FRES15  Oak - hickory    FRES18  Maple - beech - birch    FRES19  Aspen - birch STATES :      AL  AR  CT  DE  FL  GA  IL  IN  IA  KS      KY  LA  ME  MD  MA  MI  MN  MS  MO  NE      NH  NJ  NY  NC  OH  OK  PA  RI  SC  TN      VT  VA  WA  WV  WI  NB  NS  ON  PE  PQ BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K095  Great Lakes pine forest    K099  Maple - basswood    K100  Oak - hickory forest    K102  Beech - maple    K103  Mixed mesophytic forest    K104  Appalachian oak forest    K110  Northeastern oak - pine forest    K111  Oak - hickory pine forest SAF COVER TYPES :      1  Jack pine     14  Northern pin oak     15  Red pine     17  Pin cherry     18  Paper birch     19  Gray birch - red maple     20  White pine - northern red oak - red maple     21  Eastern white pine     22  White pine - hemlock     23  Eastern hemlock     25  Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch     26  Sugar maple - basswood     27  Sugar maple     28  Black cherry - maple     29  Black cherry     40  Post oak - blackjack oak     42  Bur oak     43  Bear oak     44  Chestnut oak     45  Pitch pine     46  Eastern redcedar     51  White pine - chestnut oak     52  White oak - black oak - northern red oak     53  White oak     55  Northern red oak     57  Yellow poplar     58  Yellow poplar - eastern hemlock     59  Yellow poplar - white oak - northern red oak     60  Beech - sugar maple     82  Loblolly pine - hardwood    108  Red maple    110  Black oak SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Northern red oak occurs as a dominant in many communities [77], including mixed mesophytic forests, pine-oak communities, and southern bottomland forests [12,110]. Publications listing northern red oak as an indicator or dominant in habitat type (hts) classifications are presented below: Area              Classification                Authority ----------------------------------------------------------------------- n MI, ne WI       general veg. hts              Coffman and others 1980 n WI              general veg. hts              Kotar and others 1988

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES: Quercus rubra
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : Northern red oak is an important source of hardwood lumber [20,73].  Its wood is heavy, hard, strong, coarse-grained, and at least moderately durable [87].  When properly dried and treated, oak wood glues well, machines very well, and accepts a variety of finishes [79].  The wood of northern red oak has been used to make railroad ties, fenceposts, veneer, furniture, cabinets, paneling, flooring, caskets, and pulpwood [76,87].  Northern red oak has a high fuel value and is an excellent firewood [76]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Browse:  White-tailed deer commonly browse leaves and young seedlings [81,119].  Telfer [116] reported that deer browsed only 2.8 percent of northern red oak in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.  However, in feeding trials in New Hampshire, northern red oak leaves comprised 15 to 30 percent dry matter of deer diets [90].  Elk, hares, cottontail rabbits, and moose also feed on northern red oak browse [116,119].  Pocket gophers occasionally feed on the roots of seedlings [49]. Acorns:  Mammals - The white-footed mouse, eastern chipmunk, fox squirrel, gray squirrel, red squirrel, white-tailed deer, flying squirrels, and deer mice consume northern red oak acorns [15,111,119]. In a New Hampshire feeding trial, northern red oak acorns made up 5 to 55 percent (composition dry matter) of deer diets [90].  Acorns of the northern red oak are a preferred fall and winter food of the gray squirrel [40,65].  Domestic hogs also eat large quantities of northern red oak acorns where available [119].  Acorns are an important fall food source for the black bear [31,97].  The abundance of fall mast crops can affect black bear reproductive success during the following year [31]. Birds - Acorns of the northern red oak are an important food source the bobwhite, red-headed woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, tufted titmouse, grackle, white-breasted nuthatch, sapsuckers, quail, ruffed grouse, and other birds [111,119].  They represent a particularly important food source for the wild turkey.  A single turkey can consume more than 221 acorns at a "single meal" [95].  Other birds that feed on acorns include the ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, ring-necked pheasant, wild turkey, eastern crow, northern flicker, grackle, blue jay, brown thrasher, tufted titmouse, starling, lesser prairie chicken, chickadees, nuthatches, and other songbirds.  Acorns are also important food sources for various waterfowl such as the golden-eye, gadwall, wood duck, hooded merganser, mallard, American pintail, black duck, redhead, and green-winged teal [74,119].  Sprouted acorns are readily eaten by deer, mice, and the northern bobwhite [119]. PALATABILITY : Browse:  The palatability of oak browse is reported to be relatively high for domestic livestock and for many wildlife species.  Eastern oaks are preferred by white-tailed deer in some locations [119].  New growth is particularly palatable to deer and rabbits [43]. Acorns:  Acorns of the northern red oak are highly palatable to many birds and mammals.  Northern red oak acorns appear to be less palatable to the white-footed mouse than are white oak acorns [15].  Studies indicate that relatively high tannin levels may impart a bitter taste and decrease palatability as compared with acorns from other species of oak [108,127].  However, gray squirrels prefer northern red oak acorns to the acorns of other oaks [65]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Browse:  Dry, fallen leaves are relatively high in protein but low in digestibility for deer [44].  The nutrient content of northern red oak browse has been reported as follows [90]:                      Crude       Ether       Crude       N-free    Dry matter %      protein %   extract %   fiber %     extract %    ---------------------------------------------------------------    33.3              13.27       2.15        23.88       55.37 Acorns:  Northern red oak acorns are relatively low in protein, phosphorous and crude fiber but are a good source of metabolizable energy, starches, sugars, and fat [90,95,107,126].  One pound of northern red oak acorns contains approximately 1,300 calories [95]. Crude available protein of northern red oak acorns has been estimated at 4.6 to 5.92 percent [65].  Smith and Follmer [109] reported that northern red oak acorns exhibit relatively high tannin levels (6 percent).  Other studies have reported tannin levels ranging from 4.34 to 15.90 percent [15,126,127]. COVER VALUE : Northern red oak provides good cover for a wide variety of birds and mammals.  Young oaks with low branches serve as particularly good winter cover.  Oak leaves often persist longer than those of many of its plant associates and in some areas, young oaks may represent the only brushy winter cover in dense pole stands [105].  Oaks frequently serve as perching or nesting sites for various songbirds [19].  Many cavity nesters, such as the red-bellied and hairy woodpecker, utilize northern red oak [133].  The well-developed crowns of oaks provide shelter and hiding cover for tree squirrels and other small mammals.  Many birds and mammals use twigs and leaves as nesting materials [74].  Large oaks provide denning sites for a variety of mammals [19]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Northern red oak is well adapted to some types of moderately unproductive environments, including certain acidic sites [16,60], and can be used in various rehabilitation projects.  Northern red oak has been successfully planted onto coal mine spoils in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania [4,16,66,89,123]. Plants can be propagated by several methods, including (1) transplanting bareroot stock, (2) planting acorns in tubes, and (3) direct seeding. Best survival of bareroot stock has been reported after spring planting (90 percent survival compared to 50 percent survival after fall planting) [115].  Direct seeding is the fastest and cheapest propagation method and can be effective if few seed predators are present [114,115]. Cuttings obtained from young trees often root if properly treated with hormones [28]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : The acorns of many species of oak (Quercus spp.) were traditionally an important food source for Native American peoples [118].  Acorns of red oak were leached with ashes to remove bitter tannins and then used in various foods by many Native American peoples.  Preparations made from the bark were used to treat bowel problems [38]. Northern red oak was first cultivated in 1724 [84] and is a popular ornamental shade tree in eastern North America and in parts of Europe [47,101]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Silviculture:  Northern red oak often regenerates poorly after timber harvest.  According to Loftis [70], "the preparatory and seed cuts of the classical shelterwood will not be a part of the shelterwood sequence to regenerate oaks, but rather, the cuttings applied in a shelterwood to regenerate northern red oak should be considered removal cuts to exploit the presence of small advanced oak reproduction, enhancing the development of and finally, releasing advanced reproduction that is already established."  The presence of vigorous advanced regeneration is essential for producing good stands of northern red oak after timber harvest [5,21,85].  For adequate regeneration of oaks, advanced regeneration of at least 4.5 feet (1.4 m) in height should number at least 435 stems per acre (217/ha) prior to harvest [100].  However, Kittridge and Aston [57] reported that as few as 60 stems per acre (24/ha) may be sufficient for oak regeneration in some areas. A series of selection cuts can produce stands with several age classes and can generate sufficient advanced regeneration for well-stocked, postharvest stands [7].  Initial cuts should reduce overstory densities to no less than 60 percent stocking [100].  Reduction of competing understory species may also be necessary in some instances [7,100]. Prescriptions for regenerating northern red oak should include the following:  (1) control competing vegetation, (2) reduce overstory density, (3) ensure adequate propagules, (4) manage for seedling sprouts, and (5) remove overstory after seedling establishment [25]. Chemical control:  Oaks often produce basal sprouts in response to herbicide treatments [36].  However, injections of glyphosate can kill plants [128]. Mechanical treatments:  Trees which have been cut often develop multiple trunks [10].  Approximately 9.9 sprouts per stump were reported 5 years after trees were cut in Pennsylvania.  Average sprout numbers declined to 1.1 per acre 35 years after cutting [75].  Sprouts derived from cut stumps are often more vigorous than those which have developed as a result of fire or herbivory [115]. Insects/disease:  Northern red oak is susceptible to several diseases including oak wilt and oak decline [76].  Oak decline is particularly serious and has affected northern red oak throughout much of the central Appalachian region [80].  The gypsy moth and numerous other insects can attack northern red oak, occasionally causing serious damage [41,101]. Damage:  Northern red oak is resistant to windthrow [87]. Environmental considerations:  Northern red oak is resistant to ozone damage [48]. Wildlife considerations:  Increases in bear damage to crops, livestock, and beehives has been noted in years of poor acorn crops [97].  Acorn production for wildlife can be increased by selective thinning and by protecting large oaks [90].

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Quercus rubra
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Northern red oak is a medium to large, variable deciduous tree [39,47]. It is the tallest and most rapidly growing of the oaks [20] and commonly reaches 65 to 98 feet (20-30 m) in height and 2 to 3 feet (61-91 m) in diameter [101].  On extremely favorable sites plants may grow to 160 feet (49 m) and up to 8 feet (2.4 m) in diameter [24].  Trees are tall, straight, and columnar with a large crown in forested stands but are characterized by a short bole and spreading crown in openings [101]. Plants generally have a strongly developed taproot and a network of deep, spreading laterals [47,56].  The gray to grayish-brown bark has shallow vertical furrows and low ridges and becomes checkered with age [39]. Northern red oak is monoecious.  Staminate catkins are borne in leaf axils of the previous year's growth, whereas pistillate catkins occur in two- to many-flowered spikes in the axils of leaves [101].  The acorns are approximately 0.8 to 1.3 inch (20-33 mm) in length, with a shallow, saucer-shaped cup [26,39,47].  Acorns are borne singly or in clusters of two to five [101].  The nut contains a large, white, bitter kernel [20]. The variety borealis is characterized by smaller acorn cups [93]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Seed:  Northern red oak generally first bears fruit at 25 years of age, although most trees do not produce acorns in abundance until 50 years of age [101].  On extremely favorable sites trees as young as 10 years may bear some fruit [53].  Northern red oak produces good crops every 2 to 5 years [101].  Yields vary by individual as well as with weather conditions and site factors.  Relatively large, dominant or codominant individuals with open crowns typically produce more acorns than do trees with small, restricted crowns.  Trees with a 16 inch (41 cm) d.b.h. can yield 800 acorns per year, and trees with a d.b.h. of 20 to 22 inches (51-56 cm) can yield 1,600 acorns per year [33].  Larger trees tended to be less productive.  Total acorn production may range from 100 to more than 4,100 per tree [111].  In a single year, northern red oak trees produced a combined total of nearly 14,000 sound acorns per acre in a mixed oak stand in southern Michigan [33].  Cold, rainy weather during flowering can result in poor seed production [43]. Under carefully controlled conditions, acorns can be stored for up to 2 or 3 years [127].  After 52 months in storage, only a few acorns remained viable.  In good acorn years up to 80 percent of the crop is commonly destroyed, and in poor years virtually the entire acorn crop can be eliminated by birds, mammals, and insects [101]. Germination:  Acorns of northern red oak are characterized by variable dormancy which requires stratification for germination [11].  Dormancy varies by the individual seed [114], but northern seeds often require longer stratification [11].  Under natural conditions, acorns generally germinate in the spring after dormancy is broken by over-wintering [24]. Delayed germination may occur but is very rare [114].  Seeds can be stratified at 35 to 41 degrees F (2-5 degrees C) for several months [11]. Acorns germinate best in soil which is covered by a layer of leaf litter [101].  In one study, 80 percent of all planted acorns germinated compared with less than 1 percent of acorns left on the soil surface. Domestic animals such as pigs and cows may promote germination by trampling the soil and "planting" the acorns, and by reducing competing herbaceous vegetation [25].  Seeds on the soil surface are particularly vulnerable to rodent predation [24].  In an Iowa study all seeds present on top of the litter layer were destroyed by rodents compared with 68 percent of buried seeds [33]. Seed dispersal:  Seeds of northern red oak are primarily dispersed by birds and mammals.  Scatter-hoarders such as the gray squirrel are particularly important dispersal agents in some areas [111].  Gray squirrels bury as much as 19 percent of the available acorn crop and fail to recover many seeds over the winter [65].  Scatter-hoarders typically disperse seed a few yards from the source tree.  Mice and chipmunks are short-distance dispersers and usually move seeds 33 to 98 feet (10-30 m) [25].  Blue jays are effective long-distance dispersal agents and can transport seed from several hundred yards to 2 or 3 miles (4-5 km) [25,53,57].  Evidence suggests that blue jays prefer to cache acorns on open sites or at forest margins [25].  Gravity may aid in seed dispersal [101]. Seedling establishment:  Seedling establishment is generally limited to years of abundant acorn production [101].  However, advance regeneration is usually present.  In mature stands, seedlings may number up to 7,000 per acre (2,824/ha), but few survive more than a few years or grow to more than 6 or 8 inches (15-20 cm) in height [52].  Seedlings require adequate soil moisture for survival and good early development [24]. Early growth may be reduced by a combination of shade, low soil fertility, and competing herbaceous vegetation [60,61].  Shading alone has little effect on initial seedling establishment [60]. Vegetative regeneration:  Northern red oak commonly sprouts vigorously after plants are damaged or killed by fire or mechanical injury [101]. Small poles, saplings, and even seedlings can sprout if cut or burned [43].  Although young oaks typically stump sprout more readily than do older or larger individuals, northern red oaks up to 22 inches (56 cm) in diameter have produced sprouts [33].  Stump sprouts derived from larger stems tend to grow faster than those derived from smaller, damaged stems.  Individuals 20 to 25 years of age regardless of size produce an average of four or five sprouts [101]. Repeated sprouting is common in northern red oak [122]; many seedlings die back to the ground level periodically.  Seedling sprouts with root collars up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter often develop after repeated damage [46].  After repeated fires, these stems may develop "stools" or areas comprised of callus tissue filled with dormant buds.  Seedlings often develop an "s"-shaped curve at ground level which helps protect dormant buds from fire [98].  Cycles of dying back and sprouting can result in crooked, flat-topped, or forked stems [101]. Root sprouting also occurs [46].  Sprouts that develop at or below the ground level are less likely to decay than are sprouts that develop relatively high on the parent stump [101].  Epicormic buds located beneath the bark of older oaks commonly sprout when older trees are damaged or after openings are created by heavy thinning [101,122]. Bud dormancy is largely controlled by auxins rather than by levels of carbohydrate reserves [122].  Apical dominance can restrict the development of belowground buds when buds survive on aboveground portions of the plant.  Sprouting is reduced by low light levels [122] and decreases as the stand ages [75].  The number of sprout groups decreases from poor to good sites [75].  Initial sprout growth is typically rapid [98]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Northern red oak grows on a variety of dry-mesic to mesic sites [3].  It occurs in rich, mesic woods, on sandy plains, rock outcrops, stable interdunes, and at the outer edges of floodplains [29,124,126]. Northern red oak is most common on north- and east-facing slopes [30,101].  It typically grows on lower and middle slopes, in coves, ravines, and on valley floors [101]. Plant associates:  Overstory associates of northern red oak are numerous and include white oak (Quercus alba), black oak, scarlet oak, southern red oak, post oak (Q. stellata), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), sugar maple, red maple (Acer rubrum), black cherry (Prunus serotina), American basswood (Tilia americana), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), white ash (Fraxinus americana), green ash (F. pennsylvanica), aspen (Populus tremuloides), hickories (Carya spp.), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), black walnut (Juglans nigra), jack pine (Pinus banksiana), eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), and elm (Ulmus spp.) [12,76,82,101].  Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), holly (Ilex spp.), eastern hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), American bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia), redbud (Cercis canadensis), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), and serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) are frequent small tree associates [101].  Common understory shrubs and vines include greenbrier (Smilax spp.), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), mountain-laurel (Kalmia spp.), leatherwood (Dirca palustris), witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), beaked hazel (Corylus cornuta), spice bush (Lindera benzoin), poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), grape (Vitis spp.), and rosebay rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) [101].  Numerous herbaceous species occur with northern red oak. Climate:  Annual precipitation averages 30 inches (76 cm) at the northwestern edge of northern red oak's range and 80 inches (203 cm) in the southern Appalachians [101].  Mean annual temperatures range from 40 degrees F (4 deg C) in the North to 60 degrees F (16 deg C) in the South [24].  Growing season length varies from 100 to 220 days.  Northern red oak reaches its best development in the Ohio Valley and along the west slope of the Allegheny Mountains where precipitation averages 40 inches (102 cm) annually and average annual temperature is 52 degrees F (11 degrees C) [101]. Soils:  Northern red oak grows on clay, loam, and sandy or gravelly soils [20,101].  Soils may be deep and free of rocks, or shallow and rocky [33].  Plants generally exhibit best growth on deep, fertile, well-drained, finely textured soils with a relatively high water table [26,39,101].  Soils are derived from a variety of parent materials including glacial outwash, sandstone, shale, limestone, gneiss, schist, or granite [101]. Elevation:  Northern red oak grows at relatively low elevations in the Smoky Mountains.  The variety rubra typically grows at lower elevations than does the variety borealis [129].  Generalized elevations ranges by geographic location are as follows [73,101,113]:         Location          Elevation                                   s Appalachians    up to 5,500 feet (1,680 m)                   White Mtns. NH    up to 1,476 feet (450 m)                     IN                700 to 850 feet (214-259 m)                 MO                800 to 1,300 feet (244-397 m)                MI                600 to 700 feet (182-214 m)                 NY                900 to 1,400 feet (275-427 m)               NC                2,300 to 5,000 feet (702-1,525 m)            WV                1,800 to 3,500 feet (549-1,070 m)            WI                800 to 1,000 feet (244-305 m)       SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Northern red oak is intermediate in shade tolerance [101].  It is generally considered a midseral species, but its successional status is poorly known.  Crow [25] reported that it is "neither an aggressive colonizer that is characteristic of early successional species nor an enduring shade-tolerant, slow-grower . . . typical of late successional species."  Even-aged stands are common; northern red oak is unable to establish beneath its own canopy.  Advanced regeneration provides a mode by which northern red oak can reoccupy a site following disturbances such as fire, wind damage, or herbivory.  In most areas, advanced regeneration persists for no more than a few years [85].  Parker and others [88] reported that some seedlings persisted for approximately 25 years despite repeated die-backs.  These seedlings did not reach sapling or pole size unless gaps were created in the forest canopy; most ultimately died [88].  Limited evidence suggests that northern red oak may have maintained itself in some mature forests through gap-phase replacement [25].  Northern red oak is often replaced by more shade-tolerant species such as sugar maple and American basswood [6,17]. The Upper Midwest:  In parts of the Upper Midwest, northern red oak dominates early seral to midseral stages following clearcutting but is replaced by sugar maple and American basswood [51].  Northern red oak assumes prominence after early succession in which bigtooth aspen (Populus grandidentata) dominates in upland pine-hardwood forests of Michigan [102] and persists in some old-growth oak-hickory forests of southern Michigan [42].  Even-aged stands found in parts of the Driftless Area may have originated after intense, stand-replacing fires that began in nearby prairies and savannas.  With frequent fires, sugar maple forests are replaced by northern red oak stands [25]. New England:  In New England, logging and slash fires in the late 1800's and early 1900's replaced pine-hemlock forests with stands made up of oak and maple [83].  In central New England, where advance regeneration is present prior to disturbance, northern red oak often assumes dominance between 10 to 40 years after disturbance and often persists for 100 years or more [46].  Forests are often replaced by sugar maple, red maple, or gray birch (Betula populifolia) [46,83]. Central Midwest:  Northern red oak is present in old growth floodplain forests of Illinois [96] and in "postclimax" stands on mesic sites in Nebraska [2].  In parts of Indiana, it is generally regarded as a midseral to late seral species in mesophytic forests and is often replaced by species such as sugar maple, Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra), shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), American beech, and white ash in climax stands [86,88]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : The timing of annual budbreak varies with the genetic composition of the plant and with site characteristics such as elevation and soils [8,62]. Budbreak tends to be delayed at higher elevations [62] and on sites with copper, lead, or zinc mineralized soil [8].  Plants often undergo relatively rapid vegetative growth from May through June [23].  Episodic or recurrent shoot growth, in which periods of shoot elongation alternate with resting periods, can occur throughout the growing season [25].  Growth of leaves and roots is also often cyclic [27].  However, under natural conditions, seedlings typically produce a single flush of leaves during a relatively short period of growth which often lasts only 2 to 3 weeks.  The shoot becomes dormant during early summer despite seemingly favorable growing conditions [25]. Flowering occurs in April or May, during or before leaf development [33].  Acorns require two seasons for development and ripen in September and October [24].  Phenological development by geographic area follows: Area              Flowering         Fruit ripe        Reference Adirondacks       May               September         [20] Blue Ridge Mtns.  April-May         ----              [130] WI                May               ----              [26] var. rubra NC,SC             April             August            [93] var. borealis: NC,SC             May               Sept.-Oct.        [93]

FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES: Quercus rubra
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Northern red oak is well adapted to periodic fires [3,70].  Older, larger individuals often survive fire and young, small trees typically resprout vigorously from the stump or root collar [33].  Postfire seedling establishment has also been reported.  Fire is integrally associated with oak forests [131].  Many researchers maintain that recurrent fires are the key to oak dominance in some areas.  As a result of increased fire suppression, oak forests have been replaced by mesic sugar maple communities [25]. Northeast and central states:  Fire has played an important role in deciduous forests of the eastern United States [98,134].  Most oaks are favored by a regime of relatively frequent fire, and many present-day oak forests may have developed in response to recurrent fire.  Declines of oak forests have been noted throughout much of the East and are often attributed to reduced fire frequency [98].  Historic fire frequencies of approximately 22 years have been reported for maple-basswood forests of Minnesota, in which northern red oak occurs as a dominant [35]. Northern red oak occurred on relatively mesic sites in presettlement oak savannas of the Upper Midwest.  In the absence of recurrent fires, these savannas are replaced by closed mixed mesophytic forests within 20 to 40 years [25]. The Southeast:  Fire was also a major influence in presettlement forests of the Southeast.  In the southern Appalachians, many present-day oak stands may have developed 60 to 100 years ago with widespread burning associated with agriculture and timber harvest.  Increased fire suppression has evidently favored more shade-tolerant hardwoods and resulted in a decrease in oaks [120]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex    survivor species; on-site surviving roots    off-site colonizer; seed carried by animals or water; postfire yr 1&2

FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES: Quercus rubra
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Northern red oak is apparently more susceptible to fire than many other species of oak.  The tight, solid bark is typically more seriously damaged than the rough, corky bark of species such as white oak [55]. Mortality is higher for smaller northern red than for larger trees [112].  Large trees can survive bark scorch on up to 66 percent of their circumference [98].  However, severe wildfires occasionally kill pole and even sawtimber-sized individuals [101,131].  Pole-sized and larger northern red oaks typically survive prescribed fires which top-kill the plants [101].  Seedlings may be killed by such fires [101], but root collars or belowground regenerative structures often survive even when plants are top-killed. Most acorns are characterized by a relatively high moisture content.  As the moisture within the acorns is heated, the seeds swell and often rupture [98].  Therefore, few acorns present on-site survive fire. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : Oaks tend to be less susceptible to fire during the dormant season [98]. Individuals of poor vigor are less likely to heal following fire-induced injury than are healthy vigorous specimens.  Oaks growing in overstocked stands typically exhibit lower vigor and are more susceptible to fire-caused damage.  Crooked or leaning trees are particularly susceptible to damage since the flames are more likely to be directly below the stem, thereby increasing the amount of heat received by the bark's surface.  Mortality or serious injury increases with greater fire severity.  Mortality of seedlings may be correlated with temperatures near the root collars [51].  [See FIRE CASE STUDY]. High mortality was reported after 8 years of biennial burning, although mortality was not obvious until after the first 3 years.  A spring fire killed 58 percent of existing northern red oak seedlings and caused severe damage to the boles of some overstory trees [120].  However, an "extremely hot" wildfire in Indiana, killed only 22 percent of 4-year-old plants [25].  The tops of 92 percent of 1-year-old northern red oak seedlings were killed by a low-severity prescribed burn in Wisconsin, but regenerative portions of 38 percent survived [25]. Northern red oak is generally more severely fire-scarred than many other oaks [112].  When basal cambial tissue is seriously damaged by fire, injuries often permit the entry of insects or decay that may ultimately kill the tree [1,45,98,106].  Toole [132] reported that by the 2d year after fire, 60 percent of wounded northern red oaks was infested by insects.  Heart rot spread to 2.5 times the height of the bark discoloration within 7 years of the fire.  Heart rot progressed more slowly where the original fire scar represented less than 20 percent of the tree's circumference and more rapidly where the fire scar was more extensive.  Rouse [98] estimated that rot traveled up the bole of a fire-damaged tree at 1.25 feet (0.4 m) per decade. Mortality equations based on d.b.h., and the width and height of bark blackening have been developed for northern red oak [71].  These equations can be useful in predicting if a fire-damaged oak will survive. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Young northern red oaks commonly sprout vigorously from the stumps or root collar after aboveground portions of the plant are killed by fire [24,63].  Stem density is often increased as fire promotes sprouting and reduces competition [25,91].  Johnson [51] reported that one to three living stems may originate from a single root collar.  Frequent fire can produce oak scrublands [25,52].  Hannah [43] reports that the "best" sprouts often originate from buds located at, or below, ground level. These sprouts may be more vigorous and less susceptible to rot or other damage. Seedling sprouts are often particularly important in postfire reestablishment, but seedling establishment may also occur [102].  Large oaks that survive fire frequently serve as seed sources [43].  Dying trees often produce a massive seed crop.  Acorns often germinate well on mineral soil, and establishment may actually be favored in burned areas [98].  Scheiner and others [103] reported 56 sprouts per acre (138/ha) and 51 seedlings per acre (125/ha) after a fire in Michigan. Rouse [98] reported that most large oaks are "capable of minimizing fire-caused losses due to damaged cambium by rerouting the functions of fire-killed portions within weeks after a fire." Specific response is presumably related to such factors as fire severity, season of burn, and plant age and vigor.  Fire does not always produce increases in northern red oak.  Van Lear and Waldrop [120] reported that a spring fire in a northern red oak stand failed to increase oak abundance in the understory. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : Seedlings, saplings, and pole-sized individuals commonly sprout if girdled by fire.  Damaged seedlings can often sprout several times and may ultimately grow beyond the fire-susceptible stage [43].  Sprouting ability appears to decrease as plants age.  Large trees much less likely to sprout if severely damaged by fire. On the George Washington National Forest, West Virginia, a spring prescribed fire promoted northern red oak seedling establishment but reduced northern red oak sprouts in a mixed-hardwood forest. Average red oak seedling densities before fire and in postfire year 5 were 0 and 26 seedlings/acre, respectively; northern red oak sprout densities were 658 sprouts/acre before and 0 sprouts/acre 5 years after the fire. See the Research Paper of Wendel and Smith's [135] study for details on the fire prescription and fire effects on northern red oak and 6 other tree species.

For further information on red oak response to fire, see Fire Case Studies.
The Research Project Summaries Effects of surface fires in a mixed red and
eastern white pine stand in Michigan
and Early postfire effects of a prescribed
fire in the southern Appalachians of North Carolina
and the Research Paper by
Bowles and others 2007 provide information on prescribed fire and postfire
response of several plant species, including northern red oak, that was not
available when this species review was originally written.

FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : 
Prescribed fire:  Prescribed fire can be an important tool for
regenerating oak stands.  However, results do not always favor oak.
Crow [25] reported that "although there is abundant evidence of a
general relationship between fire and the occurrence of oak, prescribed
burning is not yet a viable silvicultural tool for regenerating oak
stands."  Most oaks sprout vigorously after fire, and competing
vegetation can be much reduced [43].  However, a single low-intensity
fire may have little impact on competing vegetation [25].  According to
Crow [25], a "commitment to frequent burning is needed to compensate for
decades of fire exclusion."  In the southern Appalachians, biennial
summer burns are usually most effective in promoting advance
regeneration.  Single pre- or post-harvest burns generally have
little effect [121].

Timber harvest and fire:  Fire can be used to control competing
herbaceous vegetation after timber harvest [18].  A series of cool or
low-severity prescribed fires prior to timber harvest can promote
advanced regeneration in oaks [121].

Fuels and flammability:  Wydeven and Kloes [131] reported that a "fairly
cool" fire in an uncut northern red oak stand produced flame lengths of
1 to 1.8 feet (0.3-0.56 m).  A "very hot" fire in a cut stand generated
flames 1.6 to 20 feet (0.5-6.0 m) high.

FIRE CASE STUDIES

SPECIES: Quercus rubra
FIRE CASE STUDY CITATION : Tirmenstein, D. A., compiler. 1991. Effects of prescribed burning on northern red oak in Wisconsin. In: Quercus rubra. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ []. REFERENCE : Johnson, Paul S. 1974. Survival and growth of northern red oak seedlings following a prescribed burn. Res. Note NC-177. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. 3 p. [50]. SEASON/SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION : mid-April/not reported. STUDY LOCATION : The prescribed burn was conducted on the Hardies Creek Timber Harvest Farm in Trempeauleau County, Wisconsin. PREFIRE VEGETATIVE COMMUNITY : The preburn community was a 102-year old northern red oak stand. Understory vegetation included interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana), lady fern (Athyrium felix-femina), American hazel (Corylus americana), and briars (Rubus spp.). TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE : Not reported. SITE DESCRIPTION :       Slope:  10 to 35 percent.       Aspect:  north to east.       Site index for northern red oak:  70. FIRE DESCRIPTION : The forest floor (layers L and F) was wet and the fire spread at only 13 inches (33 cm) per minute.  Conditions were as follows:       Ambient air temperature:  70 degrees F (21 deg C)       Relative humidity:  25 percent       Winds:  5 miles per hour (8 km/hour)       Temperature of soil-forest floor interface:  50 degrees F (10 deg C) FIRE EFFECTS ON TARGET SPECIES : Mortality of northern red oak was related to temperatures near the root collar.  Ninety-three percent of the seedlings on the unburned control plot were alive after one growing season, but only 42 percent of those on burned plots survived.  All but 8 of the 42 surviving seedlings were top-killed.  Thirty-four seedling sprouts were produced, with one to three living stems originating from the root collar.  Where the temperature reached 220 degrees F (104 deg C) or more, mortality of seedlings averaged 71 percent.  Mortality was 64 percent on plots where the temperature reached 140 to 219 degrees F (60-104 deg C).  Where temperature was less than 140 degrees F (60 deg C), mortality was only 19 percent.  Seedlings on the burned plot were significantly shorter. FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS : With 7,000 seedlings per acre (17,290/ha), a 50 to 60 percent reduction in northern red oak seedling numbers may be acceptable as long as competing vegetation is reduced.  However, this spring fire had little effect on competing vegetation.  Study results suggest that a single, low-severity spring burn may harm northern red oak seedlings where postburn competition is intense.  More research is needed to determine conditions under which prescribed burns might control competing vegetation and favor northern red oak reproduction.

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