Oak Trees

These photos show the assortment of oak trees found at our farm.

Laurel Oak Trees

The laurel oak is fast growing, tall, and full. This large tree can reach heights of 65′ to 100′. It’s crown is full and rounded with a mass of 3 to 4 inch long leaves. The leaves of the laurel oak are simple, arranged alternately, and may stay on the tree until gradually falling off in early spring. These elliptical shaped leaves usually have smooth, shiny bright green upper surfaces. The surface underneath is smooth and light green. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the early spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves that turn yellow in the fall may remain on the tree throughout the winter months and then drop in the spring.

The trunk is tall and straight and has gray/brown bark that is smooth on young trees and then becomes increasingly ridged on more mature trees. This tree has a short lifespan.

The acorns are about ½” long and occur solitary and occasionally paired. The reddish-brown cap covers ¼ of the light brownish acorn. Acorns mature in two growing seasons. Laurel oak produces large crops of acorns regularly beginning when the trees are about 15 years old. It is an important wildlife food resource for whitetail deer, raccoons, squirrels, turkeys, ducks, quail, birds, and rodents.

Laurel oaks can grow in several habitats, ranging from moist, well-drained sandy soils in woodlands and hammocks near streams and swamps to better-drained upland sites. The laurel oak is generally described as a perennial tree and is native to the U.S. Its most active growth period is in the spring and summer. It has a low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions and is tolerant of shade.

The laurel oak is commonly used as an ornamental landscape tree suitable for large spaces. It is also used for firewood, as well as pulpwood for making paper. Some large trees are sawn into large timbers for industrial uses.

Live Oak Trees

Live oaks grow to around 65 to 85 feet tall. The canopy of the tree often spreads wider than their height, reaching widths of up to 120 – 150 feet. They are the broadest spreading of the oak trees producing an abundance of shade. The base of the trunk is buttressed and flared. Because of its large spread, it is a very popular shade tree.

The leaves are simple and alternately arranged. The leaves stay on the tree through winter until they gradually fall as new leaves emerge in the spring. The leaves are 2″ to 5″ long by ½” to 2 ½” wide. The narrowly to broadly elliptical shaped leaves are usually stiff and leathery. The upper surface of the leaves are shiny and dark green and dull grayish green underneath. The leaf base is tapering and the tip is short pointed to rounded. The bark is dark brown to reddish-brown, thick with shallow furrows and roughly ridged and eventually becomes blocky with age.

The wood of the live oak is yellowish-brown, very hard and strong and was used years ago for shipbuilding, structural beams, posts, and in places that require strength and durability. Today, while the wood is still used for furniture and fuel, it is predominantly used as a shade and ornamental tree. It is often used as a centerpiece within the landscape. When planting live oak, it should be restricted to large yards or parks where the spreading form can be accommodated. Live oak is one of the heaviest native hardwoods, weighing 55 pounds per cubic foot when air dry. This weight or density makes live oak a good fuel wood although it can be very difficult to split.

These oak trees remain green and “alive” throughout the winter when other oak trees are dormant and leafless, thus the name and reason they are called “Live Oaks”.

Live Oaks can adapt to almost any soil, grow rapidly when young and often live to be centuries old. It prefers moist, acid soils made up of sand, clay or loam. It normally grows in low sandy soils near the coast by oceans (they can resist salt spray) but also occurs in moisture rich woods, forests, commonly scattered in pastures, flatwoods, borders of salt marshes, hammocks and along stream banks. They can grow in front of buildings, parking lots, roadsides, gardens and backyards. Because the live oak tends to have shallow roots, they should be planted well away from walkways, driveways and buildings as the roots and branches might become a threat to the structure. The tree will grow in partial shade but prefers full sun.

Live oaks often support many types of epiphytic plants, including Spanish moss and mistletoe. Because the Spanish moss hangs in weeping garlands, it gives the live oak trees a striking appearance.

They have separate male and female reproductive units on the same plant- producing male flowers called catkins that bloom in hanging clusters. The female flowers appear singly or in clusters of one to five where the leaves join the twigs. They produce flowers every spring from March through May and the acorns mature in September and fall off by December. Live oak acorns have a light brown cap that covers ¼ of the mostly dark nut, are long, dark brown to black and tapered. They are sweet and very popular with turkeys, ducks quail, deer, squirrels and other animals. If the acorns fall on moist, warm ground, they will germinate soon after falling. Live Oak trees start producing acorns when they are around 20 years old.

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