Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Identify Florida Oak Trees

By John Lindell ; Updated September 21, 2017

The oak trees native to Florida include a number of species that have evergreen leaves, such as myrtle oak and Southern live oak. Other oaks of the Sunshine State, like the water oak, have leaves that do fall off each year, but much later than the oaks found in northern climates. Learn about Florida oak trees' basic distinguishing characteristics, to begin to be able to identify them.

Gauge the size of the oak and discern whether it is a shrub or a tree. Many of Florida’s oak trees grow no taller than shrub size in some instances but can be as tall as a tree in other settings. An example is the myrtle oak, a type that can be 40 feet high in some cases but is typically a large shrub. Others, like the live oak, normally grow to 50 feet high and have a gigantic, spreading crown of branches.

Look around at the landscape where you find an oak tree in Florida. Many oaks in Florida prefer sandy soils and will grow more often than not in that type of ground. The Florida Nature website states, for instance, that the sand live oak grows in such places as sand hills and coastal dunes. Turkey oak, on the other hand, is found in pine forests and sandy ridges.

Study the shape of the oak tree and the arrangement of its branches. Notice that some Florida oaks, like the southern live oak, have a hefty trunk and large, low spreading limbs. Others, like myrtle oak, have a contorted, twisting trunk. Willow oak, found in the Florida Panhandle, has an upright posture with an elliptical crown of limbs.

Examine the leaves of Florida’s oak species, looking for differences in color and texture. Observe the upper surface and the lower surface and feel the leaves. When investigating the leaves of the Chapman oak, you would see that the upper surface is a dark green, the lower surface has a silvery sheen to it and that the leaves feel leathery. These observations will help greatly in your efforts to identify the species.

Measure the leaves of these oaks and take note of their shape. Leaf size and shape are important indicators of the species. Take into account the turkey oak, a tree with leaves as long as a foot that have from three to seven lobes. The lobes are narrow, curving and each one tapers to a point. This results in a distinctive oak leaf that can immediately lead you to identify the tree correctly.

Inspect the bark of the trees, looking for information on the color and texture. Determine whether the bark is smooth or rough. Ascertain if it has deep fissures like live oak possesses or if it is a series of scaly ridges like the bark of water oak, a species found in northern Florida.


About the Author


John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.