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Virginia Live Oak
Home  > Tree Identification  > Virginia Live Oak


Quercus virginianaLive Oak tree2

The Live Oak got its name from its evergreen leaves, which is an uncommon characteristic for eastern oak trees. Live Oaks are an iconic symbol of the Deep South. With mature heights reaching up to 75 feet and canopy spreads up to 100 feet it is a broad, massive tree that is often wider than it is tall at maturity. Spanish moss is often found draped over the branches of mature Live Oaks.Live Oak tree

In colonial America the tall, straight trunks of pines were used for ship masts, while the large arching branches of the Live Oak were used for the curved ribs of a ship's hull. Live Oak branches were part of the 1500 oak trees used in the construction of the U.S.S. Constitution, affectionately known as “Old Ironsides”. The wood of the Live Oak is one of the heaviest of any tree in North America.

Live Oak tree in Gulfport, MS. Photo: Woodlot

Live Oak tree in Collins, GA.

Live Oaks prefer slightly moist to dry sites. It will grow best on well-drained sandy soils, but will tolerate clay soil. Soils that occasionally flood are okay, but the Live Oak will not tolerate constantly saturated soils. The best soil pH range for Live Oak is 4.5 to 7.3.

Live Oak acorns are oval-shaped, about an inch in length, and mature in one growing season - often in great abundance.

The thick, oval-shaped, evergreen leaves of the Live Oak are shiny and dark green on top and lighter green underneath.

The thin bark of young Live Oak trees is dark to light gray in color, becoming thicker and darker as the tree matures.

Live Oak trees are commonly planted as shade or ornamental trees but, due to their mature size, are not suitable for small yards. Potential limitations to using Live Oak as a landscape tree is the shading of understory plants and a habit of forming surface roots. The Live Oak is also susceptible to freezing temperatures. It is, however, resistant to salt spray and will grow in soils with high salinity. Growth rate is moderate when young and slows as the tree matures.

Pest concerns with Live Oaks are Live Oak Decline which is caused by a wilt disease, leaf blister, heartwood decay, gall forming wasps, and borers.

The native range of the Live Oak is from southeastern Virginia south to Georgia and Florida; west to Texas with scattered populations in southwestern Oklahoma. The Live Oak can also be found in Mexico and Cuba.


Live Oak leaves

Live Oak leaves & acorns.

Live Oak tree arch

Live Oak characteristics:Live Oak native range

Common insect pests
of Northern Red Oak: Gall Wasps; Borers

Common disease pests of Northern Red Oak: Live Oak Decline (Ceratocystis fagacearum); Leaf Blister (Taphrina caerulescens); heartwood decay

Fall foliage: Green

Form: Broadly rounded

Fruit: 1 inch long acorn

Growth Rate: Moderate to slow

Leaves: Thick, oval, evergreen

Mature height: 50 - 75’

Preferred soil pH: 4.5 - 7.3

Summer foliage: Green

Tree Bark: Light to dark gray

USDA Hardiness Zone:

Live Oak trees along street in Georgetown, SC. Photo: Pollinator


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