Quercus virginiana Miller
Fagaceae (Beech) Family
The Live Oak, with its massive trunk and wide-spreading branches festooned with streamers of Spanish moss, is the most typical and majestic tree of the "Deep South." Although it seldom attains a height of more than 60 feet its broad, round-topped crown may have a spread of 100 feet or more. The trunk is typically short, buttressed at its base, and divides near the ground into massive spreading limbs. Its preferred habitat is sandy soils including coastal dunes and ridges near marshes; often in pure stands.
The thickish, leathery, stiff evergreen leaves of this oak are distinctive. They are elliptical to oblong-obovate, from 2 to 5 inches long and 1/2 to 2 inches wide, rounded or blunt and adorned with a single tiny tooth at the tip, and pointed at the base. The margins are entire (no teeth and no lobes), or remotely toothed on vigorous new growth.
The acorns are 3/4 to 1 inch long and dark brown, deeply furrowed, and scaly.
Today the Live Oak is chiefly prized as a shade or ornamental tree but in the days of the sailing ships it provided timbers for the ribs and knees of ships. So important was it considered that the United States set aside several large preserves of the tree for the exclusive use of its navy. The nation's first publicly owned timber lands were purchased as early as 1799 to preserve these trees for that purpose. Timbers for the U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) came from the first such preserve on St. Catherine's Island, Georgia; the state which has adopted the Live Oak as its state tree.