Red Oak – PEI’s Provincial Tree

Red Oak in early fall, adding a beautiful color to the Autumn landscape.

Managing a woodlot begins with some simple principles, such as, being able to identify some of the most common trees in your area and knowing something about them.  I’ve chosen Red Oak to talk about in today’s blog.

Every province in Canada has its own Provincial tree.  Red Oak is Prince Edward Island’s.  Red oak is not an overly common tree in PEI and grows only in a few concentrated areas.  When I bought my woodlot back in 1978 there were no red oak trees on the property or in the area.  In the mid 1980’s I stared a few red oaks from seed and planted these seedlings in scattered spots in the woodlot.  Today these first few red oak trees, now in their mid twenties, are the source of new red oak seedlings beginning to grow throughout the woodlot.  I often find them growing among my Christmas trees, where I know I did not plant them.

Red oak has a large seed that is called an acorn.  Because of its large size it is not distributed by the wind.  So how are these large seeds being distributed?  This is where our fur and feather friends play a role.  Squirrels, chipmunks and blue jays are the most likely distributors of these seeds.

Young red oak saplings, about 2-3 meters tall, under-planted in an aging white spruce stand. The beginning of a new and diverse forest stand.

Remember I mentioned about knowing something about trees in order to begin to manage them.  Every tree species has a certain characteristic known as shade tolerance.  Simply put, it is the measure of the degree of light necessary for species to survive.  Most trees will grow much better in full sunlight but some are very good at surviving in shade or semi shade conditions.  Red oak is roughly in the middle of the range of shade tolerance or what is called intermediate shade tolerance.  This means they can be planted in areas where they will get some sun and shade.  But for best growth they need more sunlight.

One year old red oak seedling growing naturally in the woodlot. This young tree was not planted and is a long way from a mature tree. Proof that either a squirrel or a jay brought the seed here.

Most people think that red oak are slow-growing trees.   Most people would be wrong.  Red oak is among the fastest growing hardwood trees in PEI.  In the right conditions it has a growth rate nearly equal to some of the best growing softwood trees.  Red oak has many great features which is why I encourage them to grow in my woodlot.  They have value as a tree that can be cut for high quality lumber.  They respond well to pruning, which will be a topic in a future blog.  They add diversity to my woodlot.  They are aesthetically very attractive, especially in the autumn.  Red oak also add a valuable new food source to my woodlot for several mammals that make up part of the natural food chain.   They are probably one of the most valuable tree species I can add to my woodlot from just about every use I can think of.

If you want to add red oak to your woodlot it can be very easy.  If you don’t have a source of seedlings but you do know where there is a mature red oak you can collect acorns in the fall, then you may be all set.  Collect the acorns just as they fall from the tree or if you can, pick them directly from the tree right at the time they are ready to fall.   Take your red oak seeds and walk through your woodlot and plant the seeds directly in the soil in the fall.  You are just doing what mother nature intended!  Plant the seed just barely beneath the soil.  The winter will stratify the seed and make them ready to sprout the next spring.  If you are anxious to know where they are put a small marker by the spot where you planted the oak seed.  In the first year the new seedling will only put up a small top, as seen in the photo (click on any photo for a larger image) but will have a very long root.   Red oak will develop a deep root which makes it very wind firm as a mature tree.

In future blogs I will write about other species giving you some insight into why they are important to Watts Tree Farm.

Until next time, keep safe and well.

2 thoughts on “Red Oak – PEI’s Provincial Tree

  1. I will be moving to PEI this summer and would be very interested in visiting and/or you visiting my property. I just spent the morning locating tree nurseries in the area and plan to convert some field into a food forest of fruit. nut trees and livestock pasture. Do you know of an organization or program that would offer funding for such a project?

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