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Manage Live Oak - Plant and Grow a Live Oak


Angel Oak The Angel Oak tree is a Southern
Laszlo Podor Photography/Moment Open/Getty Images

Live Oak Introduction:

A large, sprawling, picturesque tree, usually graced with Spanish moss and strongly reminiscent of the Old South, live oak is one of the broadest spreading of the Oaks, providing large areas of deep, inviting shade. Live oak is the state tree of Georgia. Reaching 40 to 60 feet in height with a 60 to 100 foot spread and usually possessing many sinuously curved trunks and branches, live oak is an impressive sight for any large-scale landscape. An amazingly durable American native, it can measure its lifetime in centuries if properly located and cared for in the landscape.

Live Oak Specifics:

Live Oak Scientific name: Quercus virginiana
Pronunciation: KWERK-us ver-jin-ee-AY-nuh
Common name(s): Southern Live Oak
Family: Fagaceae
USDA hardiness zones:: 7B through 10B
Live Oak Origin: native to North America
Live Oak Uses: wide tree lawns; large parking lot islands; specimen tree
Live Oak Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range.

Live Oak Description:

Live Oak Height: 60 to 80 feet
Live Oak Spread: 60 to 120 feet
Live Oak Crown Uniformity: symmetrical canopy with a regular (or smooth) outline, and individuals have more or less identical crown forms.
Live Oak Crown Shape: round; spreading.
Live Oak Crown Density: dense
Live Oak Growth Rate: medium

Live Oak Trunk and Branches:

Trunk/bark/branches: droop as the tree grows, and will require pruning for vehicular or pedestrian clearance beneath the canopy; showy trunk; should be grown with a single leader; no thorns
Pruning requirement: requires pruning to develop strong structure
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: gray
Current year twig thickness: thin
Wood specific gravity: 0.88

Live Oak Foliage:

Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire

Live Oak Pests:

Live oak is usually pest-free. Occasionally mites infest the foliage, but they are of little concern in the landscape. There is some concern for a newly discovered Texas live oak decline.

Galls cause homeowners much concern. There are many types and galls can be on the leaves or twigs of live oak. Most galls are harmless so chemical controls are not suggested.



Light requirement: tree grows in part shade/part sun; tree grows in full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; loam; sand; acidic; occasionally wet; alkaline; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: high
Soil salt tolerance: moderate

In Depth:

Once established, Live Oak will thrive in almost any location and has very good wind resistance. Live Oak is a tough, enduring tree that will respond with vigorous growth to plentiful moisture on well-drained soil. Like other Oaks, care must be taken to develop a strong branch structure early in the life of the tree. Be sure to eliminate multiple trunks and branches which form a narrow angle with the trunk as these are likely to split from the tree as it grows older.

Be sure that adequate soil space is given to Live Oak. Although roots will grow under curbs and sidewalks when planted in confined soil spaces allowing the tree to thrive in urban sites, in time, they lift sidewalks, curbs and driveways. This may be a small price to pay for the bountiful shade cast by a row of healthy trees.

One of the biggest problems with Live Oak in our cities is the lack of pruning. Therefore, it is not a plant-and-forget tree. Because this tree can live for such a long time, it is very important to develop proper trunk and branch structure early in the life of the tree. Following planting in the nursery, prune the tree each year for the first three years, then every five years to age 30. This program will help ensure that the tree develops into a strong, long-lived fixture in the community, and will help develop the 14 to 15 foot tall vehicle clearance needed for planting along city streets.

Best growth is made in moist, acid soil, sand, loam or clay, but the tree is amazingly adapted to drought. It also tolerates alkaline soil well. Young trees grow three feet each year and the trunk adds about one-inch in diameter under nursery conditions. Construction-impacted trees take a long time to die, giving Live Oak a reputation for being a tough tree. It is usually the last tree to die around a newly constructed building.


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