Oak Trees

Oaks are relatively long-lived, slow-growing trees. They vary widely in size and form, with some species resembling shrubs and others growing massive, with such impressive canopies that they are wider than they are tall.

Oak (genus Quercus) is comprised of 400−600 species ranging across North America south through Central America to Columbia, Europe, North Africa, and Asia. Quercus comes from the Latin name for “oak” and is formed from two Celtic words: quer meaning “beautiful” and cuez meaning “tree.”

There is even a subgenera of warm-temperate, subtropical, and tropical oak species that grow in zones 8 through 11. Native to Asia, they are unfortunately difficult to find in retail nurseries.

Florida is home to a number of oak species that grow in a variety of conditions, from very dry sandy uplands to periodically flooded bottomland forests. The exact number of species is up to debate, even among taxonomists, due to natural hybrids.

Oak trees provide valuable wildlife habitat and food. When pruned properly, many of the different varieties of oaks are fairly hurricane resistant. Research conducted by University of Florida scientists showed that sand live oaks (Q. geminata) are the most resistant to wind damage.

Many oaks are deciduous, meaning that they drop their leaves during the winter. Other varieties are evergreen, like live oak, which gets new foliage about the same time that it drops its old leaves.

With such a wide variety, don’t feel restricted to live oaks or turkey oak; contact your UF/IFAS Extension office to learn more about the availability of oaks and other Florida-Friendly plants.

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