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Virginia live oak
Quercus virginiana

Copyright by: George D. Gann

General Landscape Uses: Accent or specimen tree in residential and commercial landscapes. One of the most versitile and important landscaping trees in South Florida.

Ecological Restoration Notes: A key canopy tree in mesic and prairie hammocks. Usually not dominant in rockland hammocks or maritime hammocks in South Florida, but still relatively abundant.

Availability: Widely cultivated. Available in Lake Worth at Indian Trails Native Nursery (561-641-9488)

Description: Medium to large tree with a round-topped, broad crown from wide-spreading branches. Trunks large, becoming massive, to 3-4 feet in diameter after several decades. Bark hard, grayish, broken into numerous ridges and furrows. Leaves dark green, shining above, 2-5 inches long. Briefly semi-deciduous, with most leaf loss occurring immediately preceeding new spring growth.

Dimensions: Typically 30-50 feet in height in South Florida; to 103 feet in Florida. Often as broad as tall.

Growth Rate: Moderate to fast.

Range: Southeastern United States west to Texas and south to the Monroe County Keys. Common on the mainland. Limited in distribution in the Monroe County Keys to a single small area on North Key Largo. Its historical presence on barrier islands from Key Biscayne northward in Miami-Dade County is questionable. For a digitized image of Elbert Little's Florida range map, visit the Exploring Florida website. Although Little's map shows the range south into the middle Florida Keys, this is apparently an error.

Plant Map Map of select IRC data from peninsular Florida.

 Map of suggested ZIP codes from South Florida north to southern Brevard, Osceola, Polk, and Pasco counties.

 Map of ZIP codes with habitat recommendations from the Monroe County Keys north to Martin and Charlotte counties.

Habitats: Moist forests.

Soils: Moist to rarely innundated, well-drained to moderately well-drained sandy, limestone or organic soils, with humusy top layer.

Nutritional Requirements: Moderate; can grow in nutrient poor soils, but needs some organic content to thrive.

Salt Water Tolerance: Moderately low; does not tolerate long-term flooding by salt or brackish water, but tolerates short term inunation by salt water from storm surge with minimal damage.

Salt Wind Tolerance: Moderate; grows near salt water, but is usually protected from direct salt spray by other vegetation.

Drought Tolerance: Moderate; generally requires moist soils, but tolerant of short periods of drought once established.

Light Requirements: Full sun.

Flower Color: Green.

Flower Characteristics: Inconspicuous. Pollination is by wind.

Flowering Season: Early spring, before the emergence of new leaves.

Fruit: Brown acorn. Edible.

Wildlife and Ecology: Provides significant food and cover for wildlife. Larval host plant for Horace's duskywing (Erynnis horatius), red-banded hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) and white-M hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album) butterflies; possible larval host for Juvenal's duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) and oak hairstreak (Fixsenia favonius) butterflies. The acorns are utilized by squirrels. Great horned owls and other birds nest in the trees. Also an excellent epiphyte tree.

Horticultural Notes: Can be grown readily from seed. Forms a deeply penetrating taproot which must be prevented from growing out of the container and into the ground.

References: Nelson 2003, Schaefer & Tanner 1997

Comments: An excellent and versitile tree useful nearly throughout South Florida. Its broad-spreading habit can be countered by planting other trees around it, so that it must compete for light. See a 2019 post on the Treasure Coast Natives blog on oaks and their acorns.

Copyright by: George D. Gann

Copyright by: Keith A. Bradley

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: George D. Gann

Copyright by: George D. Gann

Copyright by: Jay Horn via iNaturalist.

Copyright by: Jay Horn via iNaturalist.

Other data on Quercus virginiana available from:

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