The red oak is a native of North America, where it grows in mixed stands, with other broad-leaved woordy plants, from the 35th parallel northward to Canada. It is a robust tree, reaching a height of 35 metres. When grown in the open, it develops a broad crown with strong branches. The bark remains smooth and grey-green until an advanced age. The lobed leaves turn dark red in autumn, hence its name. The acorns mature in the autumn of the second year. They are not as poplar a food with forest animals as other acorns, because of the sharp point at their tip.

The red oak grows faster than European oaks when young, and gives greater yields of timber per hectare. It has more moderate requirements as to soil conditions and grows well on acid soils, but should not be planted in water-logged soils. Because of its characteristics, it is sometimes planted in Europe for forestry purposes and is also a very popular ornamental for parks and gardens. It is more shade-tolerant than European oaks. The timber is heavy, with red-brown heartwood, and is used for the same purpose as European oaks, though its quality is not as good.