How to tell red oak from white oak. Assuming you have just come across a tree or a pile of wood. Can you determine whether the wood is red oak vs white oak?
The terms “Red Oak” and “White Oak” refer to general groups of trees. As shown in the table below, within each group are several different species.
- Red Oak Group
- Black Oak
- Pin Oak
- Red Oak
- Sawtooth Oak
- Scarlet Oak
- Shingle Oak
- Shumard Oak
- White Oak Group
- Bur Oak
- Chestnut Oak
- Chinquapin Oak
- English Oak
- Swamp White Oak
- White Oak
Leaf Identification of Red Oak vs White Oak
If the tree still has leaves, then this makes identification much easier. While the characteristics vary from one species to the next, red oak has jagged leaves with sharp angles. Whereas, white oak has leaves with rounded edges.
In the fall, when leaves change colors, the leaves on red oaks will often display brilliant colors. However, the leaves on white oaks often simply change to a dull brown when fall comes around.
Bark Identification of Red Oak vs White Oak
When looking at the bark, red oak is typically smoother. The bark does not have deep furrows and tall ridges. Rather flatter veins running down the tree – which have a hint of red in them. On the other hand, white oak bark has deep furrows and ridges that are triangular in cross-section.
Grain Identification of White Oak vs Red Oak
When examined closer, the pores of red oak and white oak are very different. Red oak is an open-grained wood with very large pores. The pores are so large, some people say you can blow into one end of the wood and air will come out on the opposite end. On the other hand, white oak is a close-grain wood that is almost impervious to water. This may explain why white oak is less likely to shrink than red oak.
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