Oak trees are a major hardwood species of tree in Georgia; in fact, the live oak is the official state tree. While the evergreen live oak is an important oak species along the coastal areas, according to the Georgia Forestry Commission, other oak trees grow throughout the state in various scenarios. These oaks play a part in Georgia’s lumber industry and are used as landscaping and ornamental trees.
Chestnut oak (Quercus prinus) grows in northern sections of Georgia and has the nickname of rock oak. The wood of this oak species, and a similar oak of the southern three-quarters of Georgia called swamp chestnut oak, has high value. Both trees grow in the 60 to 80 foot range and have oval leaves that resemble those of the chestnut tree. The leaves are between 4 and 9 inches long and possess edges with rounded serrations. Swamp chestnut oak prefers river bottomlands and grows in the foothills of Georgia and on its coastal plains. Chestnut oak frequently exists in pure stands on the rocky, dry ridges in the uplands of Georgia, states the “National Audubon Field Guide to Trees.” Both species grow best in full sun and are not difficult to transplant when young. These long-lived oaks require a large area to grow in, but make an excellent shade tree.
Water oak (Quercus nirga) is an oak that is common to Georgia everywhere but the higher elevations of the state. Water oaks grow between 50 and 80 feet tall and have a symmetrical, rounded canopy of branches. The leaves have many shapes, but typically have three lobes and are much broader at the end than at the base. Water oak leaves will often remain on the tree long into the winter months, but fall off eventually and are replaced by new spring growth. Water oak will not flourish if the ground is too damp, and does best in the full sun. Although the species grows quickly, it does not live long. According to Floridata.com, water oaks that are 40 to 70 years old will begin to deteriorate and many develop hollow trunks. Keep this species away from your home and electrical wires, as the branches can rip off in bad weather. The tree invites a variety of wildlife and birds that will either live in it or consume the many insects the tree attracts.
The sawtooth oak (Quercus acutissima) is an introduced Oriental oak that thrives in many of the eastern states, including Georgia. Useful as an ornamental oak, the tree produces large numbers of acorns that wildlife will gladly eat. This oak also has leaves similar to those of the chestnut tree, but with sharp serrations that give the tree its name. Sawtooth oak leaves are a glossy green and are part of the tree’s appeal as an ornamental species. The leaves are not as vivid in the autumn months, turning brownish-yellow in fall. Sawtooth oak can be as tall as 60 feet, and may be difficult to transplant. Grow it in acidic soil, if possible, and consider cultivars such as the Gobbler, a hybrid that produces many acorns, usually earlier than most other oak trees.