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Author Topic: red versus black oak identification  (Read 29536 times)

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Tree_Farmer

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red versus black oak identification
« on: January 24, 2001, 04:41:46 AM »
I am doing T.S.I. in South-Central NY.  I am discriminating against black oak in favor of red oak in a 70 year mixed age, mixed species oak northern hardwoods stand.  Can anyone make clear to me how to distinguish between red and black oaks.  I usually can´t get up to the leaves to see the  orange hairs. There may be some new leaves on the ground  but I can´t rely on that.  there are older leaves from last year and sometimes acorns but mostly I have to look at the bark, and perhaps the tree structure.
   While we are at it let me know how to spot the differences between red and scaralet oak.  I usually can see the shape of the scarlet oaks in the crown but sometimes can´t and then would like to tell what it is from the bark.

Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2001, 02:45:58 PM »
A real easy way to tell black oak is to drill a small hole in the bark with your pocketknife.  When you pull out the inner bark, black oak will be yellow.  It is the only oak like that.

Red oak will have a smoother bark.  As the trees age, black oak bark will be more broken, and red oak will be smoother.

Scarlet oaks often have a more pronounced flare at the butt.  The bark is also rougher than red oak.

After you get to tell the difference on a few trees, it will be a lot easier.

Leaves aren't the best way to determine tree species.  They taught us leaf ID when I was in college.  Then fall came, and you couldn't depend on the leaves on the ground, since they could have blown in.

So, I learned to tell trees from their form and bark.  My first job out of college was to grade and scale logs.  Tree form was out, so I was left with bark ID.

Now I saw debarked logs, so now I have to do ID by what the wood looks like.

I sure hope I don't have to ID trees by it's sawdust!
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Offline Jeff

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2001, 03:11:50 PM »
Ron, After years in the saw booth that is how I usually i.d trees. They have to be neked! No bark, no problem.
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Offline Phorester

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2001, 06:17:10 PM »

To add to the other tips on identifying red Vs. black oak:  Black oak will have rough bark on the lower 2/3 of the tree and smoother bark above that.  Red oak will have rough bark on the lower 1/3 only.  Red oak will also have narrow flat or slightly indented striations in the bark. They look like ski trails wandering down the trunk.

In my area, scarlet oak never sheds limbs when they die. It will have dead limbs from top to bottom.  It doesn't shed these dead limbs, like most trees do.  Here they also have a flared, "narly" butt, right at ground level and extending up for 2-3 feet. These two attributes make it a very low value tree here. (Some researchers think this is actually the chestnut blight fungus working on this species).
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Offline johncinquo

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2003, 01:44:00 PM »
Just to throw this at ya, I had the "perfeshinal" out ot look at my trees to be logged out.  He showed me the black, red, and white differences and how to tell them from each other.  Then he kept going back to some and was kinda perplexed and finally said they had to be a red/black cross.  They had characterstics of both and could not be completely one or the other.  He said he had not seen much like that before.  JB
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Offline Ron Scott

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2003, 05:12:27 PM »
Yes, some reds and blacks on the same site can be very difficult to tell apart and may be so similar that the may be considered a "cross". Then again, where they are on different sites apart, they stand out to be quite different with the very different characteristics as perviously mentioned and are easy to tell apart.

I'm sure that some good quality black oaks have been sold or sawn as red oaks.
~Ron

Offline Tom

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2003, 05:54:01 PM »
"This conversation is really confusing me. I was taught that there were two types of Oaks in the New World, White and Red.   Black oaks were a common name for some of the trees in the Red oak family.

Now, because of this thread, I've gone back to my reading and find that there are 4 subgeneras to the genera, quercas

Quercus also called leucobalanuys-white oaks, Erythrobalanus-black oaks (also called red oaks), Protobalans-golden oaks and Cyclobalanus- ring cupped oaks.

Golden Oaks are found in western North America and ring cupped oaks are tropical.

That leave the bulk of the country with two commercial oaks, Black and White.   :-/  I was always told Red and White.  Laurel Oaks, Water Oaks, turkey oaks etc are Red Oaks to me along with the Southern Red Oak.  I have never had to consider a Black oak as a genus or subgenera.

Things have all of  sudden gotten real complicated for me. I'm in a situation where a color I have always known as one name is really known as another name.  Red is black? ::)

What am I gonna do?......What am I gonna do?   (worry, worry)

I wouldn't know a Black Oak if you were to hit me on the head with it. :P

I'm trying to read this ARTICLE
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Offline Ron Scott

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2003, 06:42:30 PM »
Tom,

It can get confusing in a large stand of  "mixed oak" when one has to determine the volumes of red, black, and white oak for sale. Especially when a " black oak is a red oak" and "white is different".

I do several of these type timber sales each year. Once one sees enough of them; the differences between the trees and their shape, form, texture, color, leaves, etc gets easier. I was marking black oak in a mixed stand today.

I'm sure a sawyer who cuts a lot of them knows the difference best.

~Ron

Offline Tom

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2003, 06:55:02 PM »
But Ron,
My confusion really comes from being told that the two types of oaks were white and red.  Black never really entered into the conversation.  

I've been told that Black oak is just what northerners call some species of red oaks.  Articles I've read say that Black and red oaks are the same.......black oaks are red oaks, .......red oaks are black oaks, ..........black and red oaks are different.

I'm panicking!  My foundation is cracking.  Not only can I not find "The" answer but get different stories from each author.

Now, the easy way to tell is cut into the bark and the inside will be yellow if it's a black oak.  Well Laurel oak has red inside and so does water oak. Are they Red oaks or Black oaks?

Yeah, I know that quick ID tricks don't always hold true but I'm on the verge of nervous breakdown here :D

This conversation just might be revolutionizing Forestry in the Southeast. :P :)  I might have to go on a lecture tour.  Do you think I should except checks or stick with cash? :D :D
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Offline dewwood

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2003, 07:14:31 PM »
I am not an "expert" but it is my understanding that for commercial purposes there are two oaks- red and white.  Of the many different subspecies they all fall into one family or the other- red or white.  When buying or selling some of the subspecies will not have the same value but will still be considered either red or white.  

I know this does not answer all of the questions but I was getting pretty worried about Tom and thought maybe I could help avoid serious health problems for him by giving my opinion.

Dewey
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Offline Den Socling

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2003, 07:26:41 PM »
I don't know doodly squat about identity of standing oaks without their leaves. I study drying. In PA, my customers have showed me oak that they said was Black. It was literally very red. and it was harded to dry than what they called Red.

Recently, I dried White and Chesnut oak. I thought chesnut was a White oak but it was much easier to dry.

There's more variations of oak than you can shake a stick at. After you have the subspecies correct, don't forget the climate, soil conditions and probably it's zooligical sign.

Offline Jeff

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2003, 07:32:08 PM »
Tom you know better then to ask that question. You set the standard my man.

You will be paid in peas. ;D
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Offline Tom

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2003, 08:13:21 PM »
Ah yes, Peas.  That will be interesting.  It will keep me from having to go to the grocery store for peas for the sawmill.  I'll just drive my truck to the lectures and put'em right in there. ;D


That is, if I can figure out this Oak thing :P :-/
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Offline johncinquo

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2003, 06:32:51 AM »
Go to your quiet place... deep calming breaths......  It cant be that important, and it wont matter in the end because when they end up staining it with formby's Walnut it will all look the same anyway.  HA!  I didn't think bringing up a topic from 11 months ago could be that interesting.  Then again, I kinda like to know all the details and am a little anal-idical myself at times.  I have the white figured out easy enough and keep whackin em down.   JB
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Offline swampwhiteoak

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2003, 07:10:05 AM »
More than you needed (or wanted) to know about oaks

As was previously stated all oaks fall into two categories, red or white.  Beyond that level red oaks fall into either "true red oaks" or "willow oaks".  White oaks fall into "chestnut oaks" and "true white oaks".  Keep in mind this is speaking botanically, most of the time they are just red or white when you're talking about wood.

Red Oaks
True - Northern Red oak, southern red oak, scarlet oak, black oak, blackjack oak, pin oak, ect.
Willow- willow oak, shingle oak, water oak

White Oaks
True - white oak, bur oak, swamp white oak, ect.
Chestnut - chestnut oak, chinkapin oak

No here's where it gets complicated.  The definition of species means a little something different to some plants than you would usually think.  Many plants, including oaks within each group, red and white, can hybridize with one another and produce fertile offspring.  Then they might backcross with a "pure" specimen.  So after a few generations you might get something that's 90% red oak 10% black oak or whatever.  Certain regions are more likely to produce certain types of hybrids.  In the bluegrass region of KY, shumard and red oaks hybridized a lot, in NW Ohio bur oak and swamp white oak will hybridize.  This can lead to a forester occasionally scratching their head, which doesn't necessarily mean they don't know their ID skills, just that they're having a problem putting it in one category or another.

If you think oaks are complicated, try to ID Rubus spp. (blackberries/raspberries) or Crategeaus (hawthorns), where you not only have backcrossing issues but also polyploidy confusions.  Genera like that will make you think term "species" is rather insignificant.

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2003, 08:12:07 AM »
For purposes of a sale here in Southern Indiana only Red and White oak are specified.  When I start falling and milling my own trees I will differentiate between the two because the finished wood has different characteristics that I think matter to the local woodworkers.  Fortunately for me I have a number of qualtiy real red oaks.  The lumber from this tree is one of my favorites.
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Offline Ron Scott

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2003, 12:32:25 PM »
Here, northern red oak is much higher in stumpage value over white oak and black oak so one needs to know the difference when appraising timber.

~Ron

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2003, 12:38:56 PM »
I agree Ron.  I always specify the difference when marking or inventory, I didn't mean to imply that the differences are meaningless.

Offline Bro. Noble

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2003, 02:29:37 PM »
Northern red oak is our best oak for the most part too.  It is easy to tell by the mottled bark.  Locally it is know as spotted oak or water oak.  While doing TSI and selecting one species over another,  a guy needs to remember the species that does the best one one side of the hill may not do well at all on the other or at the foot of the hill or the top of the hill etc.  It is really an eye opener when you do your own logging and sawing.  Seems like we have a few places where black oaks do really well but you don't see any northern red oaks there.  This is usually on ridgetops.

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Offline hawby

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Re: red versus black oak identification
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2003, 03:22:37 PM »
John,

I tend to think of myself as analytical too, but my friends say I can't get past the 4th letter  :-/

Your email to me the other night about white / red oak got me to thinking..... I blew a fuse. I am with Tom... stop the World, I need to get off :)

klh
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