Dave Mather Live Oak

     I get a magical and somehow warm feeling when I view Live Oak trees down south with the Spanish moss hanging from their low spreading limbs. They beckon the "kid" in me to climb up and explore although, speaking from experience, beware of the sharply biting chiggers that live in the Spanish Moss. Aesthetically, the Live Oak is my favorite tree.
  The Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) loves sandy soils from southeastern Virginia west to Texas and south to Key Largo, Florida as well as western Cuba. It has a huge canopy, grows 40' - 50' tall and usually 3' - 4' in diameter. It is not uncommon for "open grown" specimens to be 6' - 7' in diameter. Reputedly, these thick-stemmed spreading beauties are very old. However, one tree in Liberty County, Georgia, measured 4' 6-3/4" in diameter about 3' off the ground, had a spreading crown of 120', yet was only 67 years old. It is surprisingly thin skinned and very fire susceptible. Even a light ground fire can open up the bark exposing it to insects and fungi. The meat of the .8" acorn is not bitter like most oaks and is encased in a deep cup-like shell. The leaves are elliptical to ovate, 2" - 5" long and 1" - 2.5" wide.
  The wood is exceedingly heavy (.81 sp. gravity green, .98 kiln dried!) with a whitish to grayish brown sapwood and dull brown to gray-brown heartwood. Unlike most of the conspicuously ring porous oaks, the largest pores are barely visible to the naked eye and the transition from early wood to latewood is gradual. There are two types of rays, the largest being easily visible to the naked eye. Dr. Hoadley describes them as "conspicuous dark lines against the brown to gray-brown heartwood."
  Before the advent of steel ships, Live Oak wood was widely used for shipbuilding. Aside from this, my textbooks only tell me that it is used locally for articles requiring exceptional strength and toughness. I would love to hear from any of you about any other specific uses.


© 2002 by David Mather. All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.