Quercus virginiana

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Quercus virginiana - Southern live oak, Virginia live oak, Live oak
Common name: Southern live oak, Virginia live oak, Live oak
Family: Fagaceae (Beech)
Distribution: SE and SC USA
Habitat: Coastal plains and woods; 0-100 meters
Hardiness: 0- 40 F
Life form: Evergreen tree
Bloom Time: March to April
Foliage characteristics: Simple, alternate, elliptic, leathery leaves with entire margins. 1-5" (2.5-12.7 cm) long.
Fruit characteristics: Ellipsoidal acorns with scaly caps that cover a third of the acorn. 1" (2.5 cm) long. Mature by fall.
Bark characteristics: Gray, furrowed
Average height: 40-80' (12.2-24.4 meters)
Structure: Round, spreading
Bloom characteristics: Yellow-green, drooping catkins. Female flowers grow solitarily or in groups of 2-3, rarely up to 5. Male flowers grow in groups of several flowers.
Medicinal/pharmaceutical: Houma tribe used a decoction of bark to treat dysentery.
Ethnobotanical uses: Wood of this tree was very popular for ship building. Swollen, tuber-like roots of seedlings were fried and eaten in the south. Some Native Americans extracted an oil from the acorns for its scent or cooking, roasted the acorns like chestnuts, or processed them into a flour.
Description: Few trees are as evocative of the south as the live oak. Its sprawling branches draped in Spanish moss, lining roads or the focal point of parks - it is a fixture of humid summers. Live oaks are noted for their spreading form, and for good reason; the live oak is one of the broadest spreading oaks. The largest live oak (in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana) is only 68 feet tall, but has a crown that spreads 139 feet! Live oaks are more than just a pretty shade tree, they also have a history of human use. Many Native American tribes in various parts of the tree’s range were known to use live oak acorns in food preparation, or extract an almond-like oil from them. African American children in the south were known to hunt down the tuber-like roots of live oak seedlings to be fried and eaten. Colonial Americans were very impressed with live oak’s “incorruptible” wood, and used it to build durable naval ships, including “Old Ironsides.” Live oak was considered so valuable, that the first US Federally owned tree farm in 1828 was Naval Live Oaks. Now, the live oak is still minorly used for small boats, reforestation, and its ornamental beauty.
Links: Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant FamiliesUS Forest Service Fact SheetUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service


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