Florida grows 19 species of oak trees (genus Quercus). They are a widespread feature in most forest locations in north and central Florida. Oaks are part of the family Fagaceae, which includes chinkapins, chestnuts. Many oak species are of economic importance, sold as ornamentals, hardwood timber and a source for tannins, dyes and corks. Some oak species exhibit fall color, and others remain green throughout the year. Given the proper site to develop, oaks will grow to provide shade relatively quickly, and are a recommended landscape tree.
The turkey oak (Quercus laevis) is a deciduous tree (sheds its leaves once a year) with a narrow canopy of leaves, irregularly branched, and commonly grows 20 to 30 feet tall, but can reach a height of 60 feet. Their leaves are up to 12 inches long. This tree prefers well-drained, sandy soils and full sun. Turkey oaks are short-lived (15 to 20 years).
Laurel oaks (Quercus laurifolia) are semi-evergreen and are large, rapidly growing trees with a height of 60 feet and a spread of 40 to 50 feet. Laural oaks have a symmetrical canopy of 2- to 5-inch-long leaves. This tree prefers full sun on varied soils and is moderately tolerant of salt.
Swamp Chestnut Oak
Swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii) is a large tree, reaching a height of 100 feet or more, with a 50-foot spread. The leaves of the swamp oak are 4 to 6 inches (or more) long and 2 to 4 inches wide that turn red in the fall. It is best grown in a well-drained, but moist, location in full sun. Its large leaves that shed may be a nuisance in some landscape settings.
Water oak (Quercus nigra) is a semi-evergreen tree with a large, symmetrical shape. They can grow to 80 feet tall and spread up to 60 feet wide. It grows best in north and central Florida in full sun, on a variety of soils, and is well adapted to wet locations. This tree lives between 20 and 30 years and has little wind resistance.
The shumard oak (Quercus shumardii) is a tall deciduous tree that can grow over 75 feet tall with leaves that exhibit red to red-orange fall color, even in Florida. Shumard oaks prefer full sun and grow on various soils but are not salt tolerant. These are good shade trees for large sites.
Live oaks (Quercus virginiana) are evergreens, impressive, large and symmetrical, with a very spreading nature to the branches. Their spread of 60 to 100 feet is greater than their height, which can grow 60 to 80 feet. They can be grown in all areas of Florida and prefer full sun and will grow on various soils, and are highly salt tolerant. Live oaks have good wind resistance and are quite hardy.
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