Species Identification - Plants

Southern Live Oak - Quercus virginiana

Family: Fagaceae








Description: If the pine and palm trees are the tall straight soldiers of the maritime forest, the live oaks are the graceful dancers with limbs outstretched, dipping close to the earth then curving up to the sky. Live oaks can live to 1000 years but they grow quickly and reach their maximum trunk size in just 70 years. Although rarely used for construction anymore, live oak wood is very hard, and Old Ironsides wasbuilt from live oak. Live oaks whose limbs dip far enough to touch the earth are called Angel Oaks.

Sometimes their limbs are propped up to allow cars to drive under them. The most famous Angel Oak is outside of Charleston on John’s Island. It is considered the most often visited tree in America.

Live oaks have deep tap roots and a widespread root system which makes them able to withstand strong winds and hurricanes. That’s why they do well on Hunting Island until the beach actually washes away.

Range: Live oaks range from southeastern Virginia to Florida including the Keys and as far west as Texas.

Photos by Carol Corbin and Richard Darby

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