A medium to large-sized tree with a tall, straight trunk, stout branches and a large, open crown.
Leaves alternate, simple, 6–8 inches long; with 5-9 lobes with 2–6 bristle-tipped teeth, lobes wider at their tip than at their base, notches between lobes rounded, over halfway to central vein. Upper surface dark green, shiny, smooth; lower surface paler, smooth, with tufts of hairs in the vein axils. Leaves turn red in autumn and are usually the first of the oaks to turn color.
Bark dark gray to reddish-brown, smooth when young, breaking into thick, flat, scaly ridges with shallow grooves with age.
Twigs moderately stout, reddish- or grayish brown, smooth, shiny.
Flowers April–May, in catkins.
Fruits September–October, acorn solitary or paired, reddish-brown, egg-shaped to 2–4 times longer than broad, rounded or flattened at the base, ½–1 inch long; cup covering a quarter to a third of the nut, shallow, thick; acorns ripening in autumn of the second year.