Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tree Thursday - Live Oak

Live Oak
Quercus virginiana

Twenty years ago last week, South Florida was devastated by Hurricane Andrew.  One of my first thoughts as I toured South Dade County was “where’s the green?” The trees left standing were stripped of all leaves.  One tree species that did exceptional well was the Live Oak.  The strength and longevity of the Live Oak is, at least in part, due to its slow growth.  The slow growth allows for the development of strong wood.  The common name, Live Oak, is a reference to it retaining its leaves year round. 

Live oak is native to the SE coastal plain from Virginia to Texas, and in Cuba and isolated locales in Mexico. It grows best in fertile hardwood hammocks with moist, but sandy and well-drained soils.  Probably the ultimate southern shade tree. Live oak tolerates auto exhaust and forms stately "canopy roads" in southern cities. A majestic and very beautiful southern American tree.

Live oak is a very long-lived tree. Its life is measured in centuries. The wood is very hard and strong. Dried live oak wood weighs 55 lbs. per cubic foot, making its wood among the heaviest of any tree in North America. There is no better wood for fuel or for charcoal cooking. During the hey-day of wooden sailing ships, the US navy bought large tracts of live oak for the exclusive use of the government's ship builders. The massive, durable arching limbs were sought for ship's ribs and knees. The live oak is the state tree of Georgia.

The Live Oak is a common, maybe too common, street tree in South Florida.  The Live Oak is a wonderful tree but is being overplanted that could result in future problems with insects and diseases. 

Height: 60 to 80 feet
Spread: 60 to 120 feet
Growth rate: slow to moderate

Drought tolerance: high
Salt tolerance: high

Gene Dempsey, City Forester
Environmental Services
Office - (954) 828-7704 Fax - (954) 828-7897

Think before you print!