The live oak tree (Quercus virginiana) is an evergreen with a large, sprawling 150-foot canopy. Its height reaches approximately 60 feet. The tree grows native along the coastal states of the U.S. South. The tree easily lives for centuries in the ideal conditions. The live oak is highly valued in landscapes, along picturesque avenues, and for its sweet acorns.
The live oak tree enjoys full to partial sun. Moist, well-drained soil is ideal for the tree. The tree prefers acid soil, but it will also grow slowly in alkaline soil. It tolerates mild salt conditions and even clay soil. The tree grows in temperate areas. It is highly susceptible to a hard freeze, which will seriously damage or kill the tree. When all growth requirements are met, the tree can easily grow 3 feet per year. It will also attain 1 inch per year in trunk diameter.
Endurance and Pruning
Once the live oak is firmly established, it can withstand drought conditions. The roots are remarkably strong and will help hold the tree upright even in the most intense windstorm. The tree should be regularly pruned for the first three years to encourage branch strength. Any branches that grow outward and run parallel with the trunk should be promptly removed, or they will place the tree in danger of splitting its trunk as they gain in size. After the tree reaches three years of age, the pruning can be dropped down to once every five years until the tree is 30 years old. When the tree reaches 30 years old, pruning is only required to remove dead or broken branches.
Choose an area to plant the oak tree that offers ample room for the tree's abundant growth. The roots of the oak tree grow close to the surface. As the tree gains size, the roots heave upward and can easily distort or crack concrete walkways or drives.
The oak tree is both a male and female, so only one tree is required for acorn production since the tree is self-pollinating. Male catkins grow in long flower clusters each spring. The female flowers appear where the leaves attach to the twig, either as single blossoms or in a cluster of five. Flower color is yellow and produces an abundance of pollen that floats through the air. The live oak tree produces flowering acorns that appear and ripen in the fall.
Acorns grow singularly or in groups of up to five. They make an ideal food source for birds and small mammals. Humans also enjoy consuming the sweet nuts.
Epiphytes, such as Spanish moss and resurrection ferns, grow on live oak trees. Gardeners often worry that these opportunistic plants might damage the oak tree, but this is not the case. The epiphytes simply reside on the live oak tree without any damage.