Common throughout eastern North America, northern red oak (Quercus rubra, Fagaceae) is often found in moist woods and valleys and along adjacent slopes (Kershner et al. 2008). The leaves of this oak are characterized by being symmetric and having pointed lobes and relatively shallow sinuses that intrude less than halfway to the leaf midvein (Kershner et al. 2008).
According to the USDA, northern red oak is relatively intolerant of shade and is often replaced by the more shade-tolerant sugar maple and American basswood. This particular forest in southeast Michigan harbors numerous adults of all three of these species. The understory, however, is indeed dominated by young sugar maples and basswoods. Young red oaks are absent beneath the canopy, but still establish themselves around the margins where there is more sunlight.
Kershner, B., D. Mathews, G. Nelson, and R. Spellenberg. 2008. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Trees of North America. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., New York, NY.