Of all the oaks in the south, the Live Oak (quercus Virginiana) is the only tree that retains its leaves year round in the south. This type of oak tree is the only semi-deciduous evergreen type of oak tree, and grows mostly in the warm southern United States in zones 7 through 10. This majestic tree can grow as tall as 50 feet and as wide as 50 feet.
Culturally, the oak has been a traditional symbol of strength and endurance for a long time. It is the national tree of Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Oaks were once considered sacred by the Celts in Ireland, and the names of many of their priests, the druid, comes from the Celtic words for oak and for knowledge.
The oak tree typically lives from 200 to 600 years, but some Live Oak Trees are thousands of years old! Many old large trees have myths developed around them regarding their age and historic value. For best growth, a well-drained sandy loam or heavier soil, which has good moisture but is not wet, is ideal. Live oaks need large amounts of soil space to occupy and colonize.
Live oak trees usually grow in hurricane prone areas of the south. The live oak is cited as being incredibly resistant to hurricane wind force and often surviving with only minor damage to the tree. During one major hurricane event, 30% of live oaks surveyed along the coasts were completely undamaged, only 50% had bent or broken limbs, 5% of them had broken tops, 2% had broken stems, and only 3% were actually uprooted or knocked over.
In another hurricane storm event live oaks were found to have simply uprooted rather than break apart. Area arborists were able to successfully lift some of these uprooted live oak trees and set them back into place. It was discovered that a regular pruning program helps the live oaks become more resistant to winds.
Some key components to good management of your live oak tree throughout its life include adequate watering, plenty of space, good soil, and proper pruning every few years. Proper planting of a young live oak tree when the root growth can be quickly started is essential for a healthy tree. Field grown, root pruned, hardened young trees from plant nurseries often make great candidates for commercial and residential planting success. Plenty of water paired with plenty of soil drainage, in a large area is ideal conditions.
Some environmental factors such as freezing temperatures and hot dry summers can severely damage or even kill a young live oak. Young oaks are also especially susceptible to fire damage and heat. Live oaks tend to do best in groups or clumps of trees where each tree helps to shade the base and soil area of the other nearby trees.