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Florida is home to many species of trees and knowing what tree you are looking at isn’t always easy. Today, we are going to focus on just two similar looking trees: live oak and laurel oak. Let’s take a look at each tree:
Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)
Live oaks are large, sprawling, trees growing to a mature height of 60 to 80 feet with a spread of 60 to 120 feet. They develop very strong wood that is quite resistant to decay. These trees can live for 300 years or more!
The leaves of live oaks are thick and leathery with smooth edges. They are dark green on top with very fine hairs on the underside, giving them a paler green, almost gray appearance.
The bark of live oak is reddish brown, and can turn gray to almost black. It is very rough compared to the bark of laurel oak. As live oaks mature, their bark becomes deeply furrowed.
One other characteristic to note is the fruit or acorns they produce. Live oak acorns are shiny, dark brown, elongated, ovals, about ¾ inch to an inch in size. Acorns start off green and become a deep brown as they mature.
Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia)
Laurel oaks are also tall trees with fairly symmetrical oval canopy spread of 40 to 60 feet. Laurel oaks grow fast, resulting in relatively weak wood that is prone to break and decay. They also have a significantly shorter lifespan of only 50 to 70 years.
The leaves of the laurel oaks are smooth, narrow, shiny, dark green on top and a brighter green underneath. The margins of the leaves are either smooth or irregularly lobed.
The bark is dark gray and smooth when young, developing shallow fissures with flat ridges, but still not nearly as rough as live oak bark.
The acorns of laurel oak are also brown, but more of a dull brown, and have a rounded appearance only growing to about half an inch to ¾ of an inch long.
To help you identify these two trees, take note of:
- Overall structure
- Appearance of the leaves and bark
- Acorns (when fruiting and available)
Hopefully with these characteristics in mind, you will be able to identify the difference between the live oak and the laurel oak next time you encounter one of them. If you’re still unsure, take a picture and send it to me at email@example.com.
If you enjoyed this series and would like to read more about commonly confused plants and animals in Florida, you can find more here: https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/global/tag/commonly-confused/
Blog written by Alexis Visovatti, intern. Edited by Lara Milligan.