Oaks of the Florida Scrub (Quercus spp.)
Florida scrubs typically are dominated by one or more of four oak species. These oaks are not trees, but shrubs, rarely exceeding 8' in height. Structurally, the scrub oaks look similar, but can be identified by their leaves. Sand live oak (Quercus geminata), left, has oblong, evergreen leaves, about 2-3" long, with curled-under edges and pubescence (hairiness) beneath.
Myrtle oak (Q. myrtifolia), right, has shiny, rounded evergreen leaves, about 2" long, that are glabrous (without hairs) beneath. (Use the tip of your tongue to feel for pubescence on leaves.)
Chapman's oak (Q. chapmanii), left, has larger, deciduous leaves with various irregular shapes and irregular pubescence. These three oaks are found in nearly all Florida scrubs.
A fourth species, inopina oak (Q. inopina), right, occurs in scrubs in central Florida only, and usually replaces myrtle oak. The leaves of inopina oak are curled and directed upward.
Periodically these bushy oaks are burned to the ground only to resprout from underground root systems that may actually be more massive than the above ground parts. The longer a scrub goes without burning, the larger the scrub oaks become, and if a scrub is prevented from burning for more that 40-70 years they (especially sand live oak) will become small trees. The acorns of the scrub oaks supply food for scrub jays and many other animals. The scrub oaks are the "backbone" of the Florida scrub.