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Quercus virginiana

Southern Live Oak
Fagaceae
Evergreen, Trees

QUERCUS

The archetypal oak grows large and spreads wide, with muscular, near-horizontal lower branches that seem to defy gravity. But the group’s 500 species, all native to the Northern Hemisphere, also include upright, pyramidal, and shrubby oaks; in fact, “chaparral” comes from chaparra—Spanish for a dwarf evergreen shrub oak. Oak leaves can be deciduous or evergreen (the latter are called live oaks); lobed, toothed, or smooth edged; but they’re always arranged in an alternate pattern along stems. Some have terrific fall color. All oaks produce inconspicuous flowers followed by acorns, whose single nuts have cuplike caps covered with closely set scales. Some kinds of acorns are edible and sweet, while others are bitter and unpalatable.

Oaks come in two broad categories: white oaks have acorns that mature during the season in which they are produced, and often have leaves with rounded lobes; red and black oaks have acorns that take two seasons to mature, and often have leaves with pointed lobes. Each group can hybridize only within itself. 

Quercus virginiana

Grows at a moderate to fast rate, eventually reaching 40–80 ft. tall, with a heavy-limbed crown spreading twice as wide. Long-lived; with age, the bark becomes very dark and checked. Smooth-edged, narrowly oval, 1/2–5-in.-long leaves are shiny dark green above and whitish beneath. Oval acorns to 1 in. long, with a sharp spine at tip; enclosed by one-fourth in a bowl-shaped cap with hairy scales. Best in deep, rich, moist soil. In hot interior climates, it’s the most attractive of the evergreen oaks. Best oak for lawn planting in low desert areas.

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