TX Organic Research Center



Coastal Live Oak


Quercus virginiana (KWER-cus vir-gin-ee-AYN-ah)

Fagaceae (Beech Family)

Evergreen shade tree

HEIGHT:   40 to 50 feet
SPREAD:   40 to 50 feet
FINAL SPACING: 25 to 40 feet

NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE:   Grows only from central Texas south to the Gulf Coast. It likes more rainfall and soil moisture than the escarpment live oak.

IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION:  Coastal live oak is an extremely dramatic and beautiful tree with a wide or graceful head. Large limbs tend to dip and sweep to the ground. On some of the most beautiful live oaks in the state, the limbs actually rest on the ground. It is an arborilogical crime to prune away these wonderful limbs.

FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Rust colored male flowers that hang from the terminal growth in the early spring, along with female flowers that bloom singly or in clusters. Fruits are acorns.

BARK:     Smooth and gray or off white when young, becoming heavier textured and very dark with age.

FOLIAGE:  Has slightly larger foliage than the escarpment live oak. Small, glossy, thick evergreen leaves that vary greatly in size and shape.

CULTURE:  Live oak is easy to establish and easy to grow but is a relatively high maintenance tree because itís dropping something year round - leaves, flowers, or acorns. Most people have the misconception that it is a clean tree because it is evergreen. It responds well to ample moisture and fertilizer but over fertilization can bring on various pest problems including root fungal diseases.

PROBLEMS: Oak wilt disease can be controlled by using the Sick Tree Treatment and improving the immune system of the tree, improving the health of the soil and the root system.

PROPAGATION:  All oaks are grown from seed as soon as they are released from the trees in the fall.

INSIGHT:  Coastal live oak is much more sensitive to extreme cold temperatures than escarpment and was the one tree primarily destroyed during the freezing weather of the winter of 1983 and 1984 when we had over 12 straight days of freezing weather. Live oaks grow the best in well-drained soils but can tolerate moist soils as well. Live oaks are curiously tolerant to construction around their root systems.

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