Texas Live Oak
Quercus virginiana var. fusiformis
Beech Family — Oak Genus
Rio Frio, Real County, Texas
Circumference = 295 inches (24.58 feet)
The Texas Live Oak, also called Evergreen Oak, is a large, spreading tree of the white oak group, with short, broad trunk buttressed at the base, forking into nearly horizontal, long branches, and very broad, spreading, dense crown. It is common to central Texas, and local to southwest Oklahoma and northeast Mexico. It is distinguished from the Live Oak by slightly smaller leaves, broadest at the base, and acorns with cups narrowed at the base.
It normally grows in low, sandy soils near the coast, but also occurs in moist, rich woods and along stream banks. This handsome tree is very popular throughout the Southeast as a shade tree. Live oaks are often planted in cities, but should be restricted to large yards or parks where their wide-spreading form can be accomodated.
On the Gulf Coast, live oaks often support many types of epiphytic plants, including Spanish moss, which hangs in weeping festoons. Live oak is usually grows in association with several other hardwoods, including winter oak, laurel oak, sweetgum, southern magnolia, and American holly.
A fast-growing tree, the live oak flowers in early spring (usually in March or April), and the acorns mature in September or October. Sweet edible acorns are usually produced in great abundance, and are of great value to many birds and mammals, including wild turkeys, wood ducks, jays, quail, whitetail deer, raccoons, and squirrels.
The yellowish-brown wood is hard, heavy, tough, strong, and is used for structural beams, ship building, posts, and in places requiring strength and durability. The nation's first publicly-owned timber lands were purchased in 1799 to preserve these trees for use in shipbuilding. It ranks as the heaviest native hardwood, weighing 55 pounds per cubic foot when air dry. This weight (density of mass) makes the live oak the premier fuel wood.
Size: medium-size tree up to 70 feet high with wide-spreading, rounded crown
Range: coastal areas from southeast Virginia south to southern Florida, and west to southeast Texas
Habitat is low, sandy areas near the coast, but also moist, rich woods and along streams
Leaves are alternate, evergreen, thick, leathery, elliptical and oblong, 1.5 to 5 inches long, .4 to 2.5 inches wide, dark green and shiny above, pale and hairy underneath, edges usually straight and slightly rolled under, variable in shape, widest near or above the middle to uniformly broad, tapering to rounded at the base, rounded to short-pointed at the tip, usually entire or slightly wavy along the margin, occasionally with a few teeth; shedding after new leaves appear in spring.
Flowers appear early in spring, male and female in separate catkins, on branchlets of the current year; male flowers custered on hanging, hairy catkins 2 to 3 inches long
Fruit is an acorn, dark brown, shiny, sweet, edible, maturing in one season on current year's branchlets, solitary to few-clustered, stalked .8 to one inch, broadest at the base to almost uniformly wide, rounded to pointed at the tip; cup enclosing one-fourth of the nut, .6 to .8 inch across, scales thin, overlapping, broadest at base, pointed at tip, covered with dense hairs
Bark is thick, .5 to one inch, dark brown to dark reddish-brown, shallowly furrowed, forming small, closely pressed scales
Branches are stout, spreading; branchlets slender, hairy when young, becoming smooth and gray to brown with age
Buds are .1 to .2 inches long, globe-shaped to widest near the base, covered with overlapping light, chestnut-brown scales
Wood is yellowish-brown, hard, heavy, tough, strong, and used for structural beams, ship building, posts
Similar Species: Any kind of evergreen oak can be called "live oak," including Live Oak, Coast Live Oak, Sand Live Oak
Related Species: Live Oak, Coast Live Oak, Sand Live Oak