Live Oak (Virginiana)

The Live Oak (Virginiana) is generally described as a perennial tree. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the early spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until fall. Leaves are retained year to year. The Live Oak (Virginiana) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Live Oak (Virginiana) will reach up to 50 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 25 feet.

The Live Oak (Virginiana) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below 7°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Erosion Control: This is an excellent species for reforestation to prevent erosion on originally cleared land for agriculture. It also has the potential for revegetating coalmine spoils.

Wildlife: The live oak acorns are important food source for many birds and mammals including northern bobwhite, Florida scrub jay, mallard, sapsuckers, wild turkey, black bear, squirrels, and white-tailed deer. This species provides cover for birds and mammals. The rounded clumps of ball moss that are found in live oak are necessary for nest construction.

Timber: The live oak wood is heavy and strong but of little use commercially.

Recreation and Beautification: Live oak is used for shade and as an ornamental. It is considered “one of the noblest trees in the world and virtually an emblem of the Old South”. Today live oaks are protected for public enjoyment.

General Characteristics

General: This native tree can grow to an average of 50 feet tall and 36-48 inches in diameter, but can have trunks over 70 inches in diameter. The bark is furrowed longitudinally, and the small acorns are long and tapered. The bark and twigs are dark to light grayish color and becomes darker with age. The leaves are thick, shiny, and dark green on top, lighter below. Small flowers are produced when new leaves are grown. The fruit, which is an acorn, has a 1 inch long cup, somewhat narrowed at the base. Root crowns and roots survive fire and sprout vigorously.

Required Growing Conditions

Live oak is most commonly found on the lower Coastal Plain of southeastern United States. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Live oak grows in moist to dry sites. It withstands occasional floods, but not constant saturation. It is resistant to salt spray and high soil salinity. Live oak grows best in well-drained sandy loam soils but also grows in clay and alluvial soils. Live oak is intermediate in shade tolerance.

Cultivation and Care

Live oak is monoecious. Germination is hypogeal and occurs shortly after seedfall if the site is moist and warm. Live oak is fast growing if well watered and soil conditions are good. Seedlings grow 4 feet in the first year. Under ideal conditions, a live oak can attain a dbh. of 54 inches in less that 70 years. Live oak sprouts from the collar and roots, and forms dense clones up to 66 feet in diameter.

General Upkeep and Control

Once established live oak withstands competition. It is extremely salt tolerant and this resistance may account for its dominance in many climax coastal forests in the northern part of its range. Dense stands of live oak reduce forage production for livestock. Live oak is extremely hard to kill because it sprouts vigorously from the root collar and roots.

Pests Some of the pests that causes live oak decline is wilt disease, leaf blister, heartwood decay, gall wasps, and borers, which attacks roots of young live oak. Live oak is extremely susceptible to freezing temperatures and acid rain.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Tree
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Early Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Single Stem
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Intermediate
Height When Mature 50
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature 7
Soil Depth for Roots 40
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 4.5–6.5 pH
Precipitation Range 32–32 inches/yr
Planting Density 300–1200 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 40
Minimum Frost-Free Days 240 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance None
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention Yes
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA