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Laurel Oak, A Common Tree in North America

Quercus laurifolia, A Top 100 Common Tree in North America


There has been a long history of disagreement concerning the identity of Laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia). It centers on the variation in leaf shapes and differences in growing sites, giving some reason to name a separate species, diamond-leaf oak (Q. obtusa). Here they are treated synonymously. Laurel oak is a rapid-growing short-lived tree of the moist woods of the southeastern Coastal Plain. It has no value as lumber but makes good fuelwood. It is planted in the South as an ornamental. Large crops of acorns are important food for wildlife.

1. The Silviculture of Laurel Oak

R. Merrilees, Illustrator
Laurel oak has been widely planted in the South as an ornamental, perhaps because of the attractive leaves from which it takes its common name. Large crops of laurel oak acorns are produced regularly and are an important food for white-tailed deer, raccoons, squirrels, wild turkeys, ducks, quail, and smaller birds and rodents.

2. The Images of Laurel Oak

Laurel Oak
Forestryimages.org provides several images of parts of laurel oak. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Fagales > Fagaceae > Quercus laurifolia. Laurel oak is also called Darlington oak, diamond-leaf oak, swamp laurel oak, laurel-leaf oak, water oak, and obtusa oak.

3. The Range of Laurel Oak

Laurel oak is native to the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains from southeastern Virginia to southern Florida and westward to southeastern Texas with some island populations found north of its contiguous natural range. The best formed and largest number of laurel oaks are found in north Florida and in Georgia.

4. Laurel Oak at Virginia Tech

Leaf: Alternate, simple, entire margins, occasionally with shallow lobes, widest near the middle, 3 to 5 inches long, 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide, thick and persistent, shiny above, pale and smooth below.

Twig: Slender, light reddish brown, hairless, buds are sharp pointed reddish brown and clustered at twig ends.

5. Fire Effects on Laurel Oak

Laurel oak smaller than 3 inches in d.b.h. can be top-killed by low-severity fire. More severe fires may completely kill this fire-sensitive species.

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