West Texas Live Oak
ESCARPMENT LIVE OAK
OTHER COMMON NAMES: PLATEAU LIVE OAK, SCRUB LIVE OAK, WEST TEXAS LIVE OAK, LIVE OAK
BOTANICAL NAME: Quercus fusiformis (KWER-kus fuse-ah-FORM-iss)
FAMILY: Fagaceae (Beech Family)
TYPE: Evergreen shade tree
HEIGHT: 40 to 50 feet
SPREAD: 40 to 50 feet
FINAL SPACING: 25 to 40 feet
NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE: Escarpment live oak grows in the same area that the coastal live oak grows but also further inland and north and in more rocky alkaline droughty areas.
IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION: Live oak is a dramatically beautiful evergreen tree with a wide rounded head. Limbs tend to dip and sweep in all the way to the ground unless trimmed away. Single and multi stemmed trees exist.
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 one seeded black acorns.
BARK: Very dark colored, smooth and gray or off white when young, becoming heavily textured and very dark with age. Live oaks and blackjack oaks probably have the darkest bark of all the oaks.
FOLIAGE: Small, glossy, thick, evergreen leaves that vary considerably in shape and size, 1 to 3 inches long, ½-1 inch wide.
CULTURE: Live oak is easy to establish and easy to grow but is a relatively high maintenance tree because it’s 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: Aphids, ice damage, galls, oak wilt and almost continuous flavor, leaf, acorn drop. It has to be considered a high maintenance plant on most urban sites although it is a very important tree for Texas. Another possible problem is freeze damage. During the winters of ‘83 and ’84, hundreds of thousands of live oaks were killed or severely damaged from the prolonged temperatures below freezing.
PROPAGATION: All oaks are grown from seed as soon as they are released from the trees in the fall.
INSIGHT: The escarpment live oak does seem to be considerably more drought tolerant and cold hearty than the coastal live oak. Both live oaks lose their foliage in the spring when the swelling buds push them off. Live oaks often look bad at this time and worry homeowners that their trees are in trouble. The new leaves emerge quickly and everyone calms down again.