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Life History and Disturbance Response of Quercus falcata var. falcata (southern red oak)
Family: Fagaceae
Guild: persistent, large-seeded, advance growth dependent
Functional Lifeform: medium-size to large deciduous tree
Ecological Role: common upland southern oak found in mixed-species forests on dry ridge tops and upper slopes; occasionally grows along streams in fertile bottomlands
Lifespan, yrs (typical/max): 150/200
Shade Tolerance: intermediate
Height, m: 20-25
Canopy Tree: yes
Pollination Agent: wind
Seeding, yrs (begins/optimal/declines): 25/50/75
Mast Frequency, yrs: 2-5
New Cohorts Source: seeds or sprouts
Flowering Dates: late spring
Flowers/Cones Damaged by Frost: no
Seedfall Begins: early fall
Seed Banking: up to 1 yr
Cold Stratification Required: yes
Seed Type/Dispersal Distance/Agent: nut (acorn)/ to 50 m/ gravity, birds, other animals
Season of Germination: spring
Seedling Rooting System: taproot
Sprouting: seedling and stump sprouts common
Establishment Seedbed Preferences:
Substrate: litter cover
Light: overstory shade
Moisture: moist
Temperature: neutral
Disturbance response:
Fire: In the absence of fire or other disturbance, the relatively short-lived southern red oak is replaced by later successional species. Periodic fires in upland oak systems promote oak dominance by opening the canopy and reducing competition. Fires in upland forests tend to be low- to moderate-intensity and short in duration. They have thin bark and are susceptible to topkill from fire, particularly small trees < 8 cm d.b.h. As trees grow larger, they become more resistant to fire. Growing-season fires cause more damage than dormant-season fires. Fire wounds on surviving trees allow entry of fungi which can cause heart rot decay. Topkilled southern red oaks sprout vigorously from adventitious buds in the root crown or from root suckers after fire, and overall stem density may increase following fire. Species such as southern red oak that sprout after fire may become dominant in transition zones between pine and hardwood forests. Fire may promote a good seedbed for acorn germination, but acorns present during the fire are usually killed. Seedling establishment may occur from seeds of surviving trees onsite or from offsite seeds carried by birds and other animals. Prescribed fire may promote advance regeneration. Because oak seedlings are less susceptible to root kill by fire than competitors and because sprouts grow faster than seedlings, low-intensity fire can be used to promote advance oak regeneration. Repeat low-intensity fires seem to foster advance regeneration more effectively than single fires. Annual fires, however, will result in decreased stem density as root systems are killed.
Weather: Southern red oak decline and death has been associated with drought.
Exotics: Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) is a defoliator of eastern hardwood forests, introduced to Massachusetts from France in 1885. It has spread throughout New England into Virginia and Michigan. Defoliation causes growth loss, decline, and mortality. It feeds on many tree species, but Quercus and Populus are the most susceptible taxa, and trees growing on xeric sites are the most vulnerable. Various efforts have been made to control it, with mixed results. A fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga introduced from Japan causes considerable mortality to gypsy moth populations. E. maimaiga levels are promoted by damp weather.