Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1064 Quercus geminata

Common Names: sand live oak Family: Fagaceae (beech Family)
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sand live oak
Sand live oaks along a tidal creek in the Florida Panhandle.
sand live oak acorns
Sand live oak acorn and foliage


The sand live oak is superficially similar to the live oak (Quercus virginiana). Both are broad leaf (as opposed to needle leaf) evergreen oaks. The bark and buds are similar. The acorns are similar. But sand live oak leaf blades differ from those of live oak in having their edges conspicuously rolled down and inward, toward the midvein. (The leaves are revolute.) The leaves, especially the youngest ones, look like little upside-down boats. The leaf blades of live oak are typically flat, and not revolute. Also, the midvein and major lateral veins of the upper surface of sand live oak leaves are noticeably impressed; the veins on the upper surface of live oak leaves are scarcely or not at all impressed. The leaves of sand live oak overwinter and drop as the new leaves and flowers emerge in spring, usually two or three weeks later than live oak.

Another difference is that sand live oak takes on different forms in different environments: When sand live oak occurs on coastal sand dunes, above the herbaceous zone where sea oats (Uniola paniculata) can be found, it typically forms dense, impenetrable thickets with the crowns of the individual shrub-trees rounded and clipped smooth by wind blown sand and salt. Where it occurs in scrub, sand live oak is typically a shrub, rarely more than 10 ft (3 m) tall. In high pine (a.k.a. sandhills), sand live oak usually grows as a fairly large individual tree, or sometimes, in a clonal copse, with multiple stems. The specific epithet, geminata, Latin for twin, refers to the notion that the acorns occur in pairs. However, more often than not, they occur in clusters of three or more. The acorns of live oak are usually just one or two per peduncle. The largest known sand live oak, located in Gainesville, Florida, is 94 ft (28 m) tall and almost 5 ft (1.5 m) in diameter at breast height (dbh), but very few specimens exceed 30 ft (10 m) in height and 2 ft (60 cm) in dbh.

sand live oak copse
This is a sand live oak copse growing in a high pine community. Presumably, all of those stems are connected below ground and are actually just one individual!


Quercus geminata occurs on the Lower Coastal Plain from southeastern Virginia to south-central Florida and thence along the Gulf Coast to southern Mississippi. Sand live oak grows in areas with deep, infertile sands, such as coastal dunes, scrub and high pine (or sandhills), and individual trees frequently persist where these communities formerly occurred such as coastal residential communities, pastures, pine plantations and old fields.


Light: Sand live oaks grow in full sun. Moisture: Established sand live oaks are exceptionally drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 10. Propagation: The acorns of sand live oak mature in the fall after just one season, and may be planted immediately, with germination to be expected the following spring.
sand live oaks
These large sand live oaks reside in what was once a scrub community that has been deprived of fire which permitted the oaks to grow to tree size.


Sand live oak is a fast growing tree that is recommended for environmentally friendly landscapes within its native range. It is tolerant of salt spray, poor sandy soils, drought and neglect. Sand live oak is used interchangeably with live oak as a street tree and in parks. Sand live oak may grow faster than live oak, but it will not get as large, and is therefore more suitable for smaller landscapes.


Quercus geminata is one of the three or four species of oaks that grow as shrubs in the sand pine scrub habitat, and as somewhat larger trees in the high pine habitat. Natural, lightning caused fires are a frequent occurrence in scrub and in high pine communities, and the sand live oaks are capable of resprouting after being burned to the ground. It has been shown that up to 80% of the biomass of a sand live oak may be underground, safe from fire and ready to sprout back if the above ground parts of the plant are killed. It is reported that the wood of sand live oak is not as strong or dense as that of the live oak. The acorns are an important wildlife food.

Steve Christman 10/21/07

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Quercus species profiled on Floridata:

Quercus acutissima

( sawtooth oak )

Quercus alba

( white oak )

Quercus bicolor

( swamp white oak )

Quercus cerris

( Turkish oak, Turkey oak )

Quercus coccinea

( scarlet oak )

Quercus falcata

( southern red oak, Spanish oak )

Quercus geminata

( sand live oak )

Quercus hemisphaerica

( laurel oak, upland laurel oak, damn laurel oak )

Quercus imbricaria

( shingle oak, northern laurel oak )

Quercus laevis

( turkey oak, blackjack oak )

Quercus macrocarpa

( bur oak, mossycup oak )

Quercus michauxii

( swamp chestnut oak, basket oak, cow oak )

Quercus muehlenbergii

( chinkapin oak, yellow chestnut oak, chinquapin oak, yellow oak )

Quercus nigra

( water oak, spotted oak, possum oak )

Quercus nuttallii

( nuttall oak )

Quercus palustris

( pin oak, Spanish oak, swamp oak )

Quercus phellos

( willow oak )

Quercus prinus

( chestnut oak,rock chestnut oak,rock oak,basket oak,tanbark oak )

Quercus robur

( English oak, pedunculate oak, truffle oak )

Quercus rubra

( northern red oak )

Quercus shumardii

( Shumard oak, Shumard red oak )

Quercus velutina

( black oak, quercitron oak, yellowbark oak, yellow oak )

Quercus virginiana

( live oak )

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