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The Live Oak is 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.
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Common Names: live oak family: Fagaceae (beech Family)
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).
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!