Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 92 Quercus virginiana

Common Names: live oak Family: Fagaceae (beech Family)
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Live oak catkins
In early Spring the "tardily deciduous' live oak tree sheds last season's leaves, blooms and then bud out with the current season's foliage.
Live oak catkins
The live oak catkins color the tree a yellow green and dangle in the breezes dusting pounds of pollen in all directions.


The live oak is a huge and noble evergreen broad-leaf tree with large, spreading, nearly horizontal branches and thick, leathery, oval, dark green leaves. The bark is dark red-brown to gray and deeply furrowed, eventually becoming blocky. The flowers, typical of oaks, are catkins that hang down 2-3". They appear in very early spring and dust the countryside with yellow pollen. Brownish-black acorns about an inch long mature in the autumn of the same year on the current season's twigs. The acorns are sweet and edible. Live oaks are often festooned with Spanish moss, resurrection fern and other epiphytes.


Live oak, Quercus virginiana, is native to the SE coastal plain from Virginia to Texas, and in Cuba and isolated locales in Mexico. It grows best in fertile hardwood hammocks with moist, but sandy and well-drained soils.


Light: Grows in partial shade or full sun. Moisture: Likes moist, well-drained soil. Established trees are very drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. Propagation: Seeds (acorns).


Probably the ultimate southern shade tree. It also is grown widely as an avenue tree, set about 90' apart. Live oak tolerates auto exhaust and forms stately "canopy roads" in southern cities. A majestic and very beautiful southern American tree.

live oak
Live oak limbs grow horizontally and often touch the ground as they reach for light.


Live oak is a fast-growing, yet very long-lived tree. Its life is measured in centuries. The wood is very hard and strong. Dried live oak wood weighs 55 lbs. per cubic foot, making its wood among the heaviest of any tree in North America. There is no better wood for fuel or for charcoal cooking. During the hey-day of wooden sailing ships, the US navy bought large tracts of live oak for the exclusive use of the government's ship builders. The massive, durable arching limbs were sought for ship's ribs and knees. The live oak is the state tree of Georgia.


Do not underestimate how large a live oak can become. Give them ample space!

Steve Christman 5/10/97; updated 1/8/00, 1/28/01, 1/6/02, 1/13/02, 3/30/05

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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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