Welcome to our guide on the different types of oak trees found in Florida. Florida is home to a diverse range of oak trees, each with its own unique characteristics and features.
In this post, we will introduce you to 16 different types of oak trees commonly found in the state, including their common and scientific names, growth patterns, and preferred growing conditions.
Whether you’re a homeowner looking to add some oak trees to your landscape or simply want to learn more about these majestic trees, this guide is for you.
[Related Article: 8 Types Of Oak Trees In Ohio]
Laurel oak is a fast-growing tree that is often used as a shade tree in suburban Florida. Its leaves are similar to those of bay leaves and are green and glossy on top, with a light green and smooth underside.
The tree is semi-evergreen to deciduous, meaning it may lose all of its leaves in the fall in cooler areas, but will keep some of its leaves throughout the year in warmer areas.
In the spring, it produces non-showy catkins that turn into round brown acorns in the fall. Laurel oak can live for 50 to 70 years, but it is prone to decay or wood rot in its trunk and large branches. It is tolerant of a wide range of soils and can grow in either full sun or partial shade, and is also able to tolerate wet sites.
Other common names for this tree include swamp laurel oak, diamond-leaf oak, water oak, and obtusa oak. It grows in USDA zones 6B to 10B, reaching an average size of 60 to 70 feet tall and 35 to 40 feet wide at maturity, and flowers in early spring.
Shumard oak is a popular tree found in many home landscapes, commercial settings, and parking lot islands in north Florida and the panhandle. It is known for its resilience and ability to tolerate air pollution, compacted soil, drought, and poor drainage.
Despite its strength, it is also known for its striking beauty, with large, deeply lobed leaves that are dark green throughout most of the year and turn a brilliant red or red-orange in the fall. Shumard oak has a broad, open crown and becomes rounded and wider with age, making it an excellent shade tree.
It has some of the largest acorns of the native Florida oaks, reaching up to 1.5 inches wide and attracting wildlife such as squirrels and deer. It can be planted in acidic, neutral, or alkaline soils and prefers full sun exposure, though it can also grow in drier sites.
Other common names for this tree include spotted oak, Schneck oak, Shumard red oak, and swamp red oak. It grows in USDA zones 5A to 9B, reaching an average size of 55 to 80 feet tall and 40 to 50 feet wide at maturity, and flowers in early spring.
3.Southern Red Oak
Southern red oak is a massive and durable tree that is able to withstand hurricanes. It has a large, rounded canopy with open growth and was once known as Spanish oak, as it was popular in the Spanish North American colonial region.
Its deciduous leaves are large and shiny, measuring 5 to 9 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide, with a terminal lobe that is longer and narrower than other leaves.
The leaves turn brown in the fall and winter before new growth pushes them out in the spring. Southern red oak has distinctive dark gray to black bark with ridges and furrows that resemble cherry bark. It is a moderately fast grower and can be used as a specimen, shade, reclamation, or street tree.
It is tolerant of a wide range of soils, has a high drought tolerance, and thrives in full sun. Other common names for this tree include Spanish oak. It grows in USDA zones 7A to 9B, reaching an average size of 60 to 80 feet tall and 60 to 70 feet wide at maturity, and flowers in early spring.
Native to the swampy areas of Florida, water oak is a tree that is well-suited to southern Florida. It has a spreading, rounded, and open canopy and is semi-evergreen in Florida, with some trees showing a yellow fall color in cooler parts of the state.
The leaves of water oak are green and shiny on top with pale undersides and have a distinctive rounded paddle shape, measuring 2 to 4 inches in length.
One of the defining characteristics of water oak is its production of an immense number of acorns, which are attractive to and nourish wildlife, but can also stain asphalt and concrete for several months when they fall.
Water oak is a rapid grower but has a relatively short lifespan of 30 to 50 years, which is common in areas of Florida with moist and rich soil. Other common names for this tree include black oak and possum oak.
It grows in USDA zones 6A to 10B, reaching an average size of 50 to 60 feet tall and 60 to 70 feet wide at maturity, and flowers in early spring.
Willow oak gets its name from its similarity to willow trees, both in the shape of its leaves and the drooping habit of its branches. The foliage of willow oak is light to bright green throughout much of the year and turns yellow-brown in the fall, though in Florida it may just turn brown.
In the spring, the new leaves have a bright green color. Though not native to Florida, willow oak is one of the most common types of oak in the state and is often used as a shade tree, in parks, or along streets. When young, it has a pyramidal shape but becomes more rounded as it ages, with fast growth and a crown displaying dense foliage.
Willow oak should be planted in full sun and is tolerant of aerosol salt, making it a good choice for coastal areas. It is also highly drought-tolerant, making it well-suited to the dry conditions that can occur in Florida.
It grows in USDA zones 6A to 9A, reaching an average size of 60 to 75 feet tall and 40 to 50 feet wide at maturity, and flowers in early spring.
Bluff oak is a common tree found along stream banks in northern Florida and the panhandle, where it grows alongside red maple, elms, and black gum. It is also a popular choice among Florida landscapers, particularly for use in parking lots and along streets and boulevards.
Bluff oak has dark green, lobed leaves that are shiny on top and pale underneath, which are deciduous and may display copper, yellow, or orange tones in cooler falls, or simply fall off or turn brown. This tree requires plenty of room for crown development and has no major pests or diseases that affect it.
It prefers full sun and well-drained soil and has excellent drought tolerance. Other common names for this tree include bastard white oak. It grows in USDA zones 8A to 9B, reaching an average size of 40 to 60 feet tall and 35 to 50 feet wide at maturity, and flowers in early spring.
Chinkapin oak is a large, spreading shade tree that is suitable for large yards, estates, or parks. It has a slow to medium growth rate and becomes more rounded and dominant as it ages.
It has medium to large, glossy, dark green leaves that are usually 4 to 6 ½ inches long and may change to yellow orange to orangish-brown shades in fall. The tree has ashy, light gray bark with narrow, thin flakes and is able to grow in most types of soil, including wet soils.
It has some drought tolerance but may not thrive in severe drought conditions. Chinkapin oak is also known as chestnut oak due to its chestnut-like, edible acorns.
It grows in USDA zones 3A to 8B, reaching an average size of 40 to 60 feet tall and 50 to 60 feet wide at maturity, and flowers in early spring.
8.Southern Live Oak
Southern live oak is a stunning tree that is iconic in the Old South, with its sprawling yet graceful branches adorned with Spanish moss. It is found in old plantations, mansion yards, parks, and residential areas throughout the central and upper parts of Florida, and is a picturesque addition to any landscape.
This evergreen tree grows rapidly when young and can live for centuries, with a rounded shape that is usually much wider than it is tall and thick, twisting branches that have excellent wind resistance. The bark of southern live oak is reddish brown and furrowed when young, turning dark gray to almost black and becoming more rough and furrowed with age.
The tree has leathery, glossy, dark green leaves on top with a pale underside, measuring 2 to 5 inches long and remaining on the tree until the following spring, when new leaves push out the old ones.
Southern live oak is adaptable to a range of soil types and prefers a normal amount of moisture, with flood and drought tolerance. If it is planted in a drier site, it will take on a dwarf form. Other common names for this tree include live oak.
It grows in USDA zones 7B to 10B, reaching an average size of 60 to 80 feet tall with a spread of 60 to 120 feet at maturity, and flowers in early spring.
Overcup oak is a slow-growing tree that is known for its neat and uniform shape, making it an important tree in urban settings. It has a beautiful reddish or gray-brown bark and leathery, dark green leaves with fuzzy, white undersides.
In the fall, the leaves may turn rich yellow-brown, particularly in the northern half of Florida. Overcup oak produces round, ¾ to 1 inch diameter acorns that almost cover the entire nut, earning it its common name.
These acorns attract squirrels and other small mammals, but can be messy. Overcup oak grows well in a wide range of soils and prefers full sun. Other common names for this tree include swamp post oak, swamp white oak, and water white oak.
It grows in USDA zones 6A to 9A, reaching an average size of 45 to 70 feet tall and 35 to 50 feet wide at maturity, and flowers in early spring.
Post oak is a slow-growing oak that is commonly found in dry, low-fertility, sandy soils, and has excellent drought tolerance. It is rarely found in nurseries, but rather grows on the edges of fields.
One way to easily identify post oak is by its leaves, which have three perpendicular terminal lobes that resemble a Maltese cross, and have a leathery texture with short hairs underneath.
The tree has thick bark that allows it to survive forest fires, and its acorns provide food for deer, squirrels, and other rodents in forests. Other common names for post oak include iron oak, box white oak, and rough oak.
It grows in USDA zones 6A to 9A, reaching an average size of 40 to 50 feet tall with a spread of 35 to 50 feet at maturity, and flowers in spring.
White oak is a long-lived, beautiful, and stately tree that is best suited for north Florida and the panhandle due to its struggles in the year-round warmth of southern Florida.
During dormancy, the tree boasts attractive light gray, plated bark and an open crown. Its deciduous leaves are blue-green and shiny on top with a pale green to white underside, turning wine-red or orange-red in late fall before turning brown and lingering on the tree well into the short Florida winter.
With a six-foot diameter trunk at maturity, white oak is best suited for large landscapes and is slow growing, but its strong branches can withstand storms. It grows in USDA zones 3B to 8B, reaching an average size of 50 to 80 feet tall with a spread of 50 to 80 feet at maturity, and flowers in spring.
Turkey oak is a popular choice for attracting wildlife, particularly squirrels, deer, and turkey, thanks to its abundant acorn crop. Its common name comes from the shape of its leaves, which resemble a turkey’s foot.
This oak is common in Florida’s forests and thrives in dry, sandy spots, making it a good choice for small to medium-sized landscapes. It is also highly wind resistant, which is important in hurricane-prone Florida.
However, it produces a large amount of pollen, which can be a source of allergy for some people. Turkey oak grows in USDA zones 7B to 10A, reaches an average size of 20 to 30 feet tall with a similar spread, and flowers in the spring.
Chapman oak, named after botanist A.W. Chapman, is a small and shrub-like tree with multiple stems that grows in the dry and sandy ridges and coastal dunes of most of Florida.
It is rarely taller than 30 feet and has glossy, dark green leaves with a light gray to yellow underside. In the northern part of the state, Chapman oak is deciduous, but in the warmer region, it is semi-evergreen.
This oak blooms in the spring and produces acorns that mature within one season, which are loved by a variety of birds including Florida scrub jays, woodpeckers, and wild turkeys, as well as small mammals such as squirrels, raccoons, and white-tailed deer.
However, it is important to note that Chapman oak’s pollen is a severe allergen and may not be suitable for those with seasonal allergies. It grows in USDA zones 8B to 10B and reaches an average size of 5 to 15 feet tall with a similar spread, with a flowering season in the spring.
Myrtle oak is a small, shrub-like oak tree native to the dry, sandy soil of the Florida coastline. Its name comes from its leaves, which resemble those of plants in the Myrtus or myrtle genus.
With a spreading, rounded crown and smooth, dark brown bark, myrtle oak is an attractive addition to any landscape. Its evergreen leaves are shiny, leathery, and dark green on top, with a yellow-green to orangish brown underside.
It can be planted in full sun or partial shade, and is well-suited for use as a hedge or small screen in smaller yards. Myrtle oak is hardy in USDA zones 8A to 9B, and reaches an average size of 15 to 20 feet tall with a spread of 8 to 10 feet at maturity. It flowers in the spring.
Bluejack oak is a subtropical tree native to Florida that is named for its bluish, deciduous leaves. It grows in the sandy soils of ridges, scrublands, and hills, often among native pines.
The tree has a thick, dark gray to black bark with wide, deep furrows and bluish-green, ashy leaves that are silvery on the underside. With the suburbanization of Florida, small oaks like bluejack are becoming more popular, as they can be trained to maintain a neat, symmetrical form through annual pruning.
However, their acorns can stain light-colored pavements. Other common names for this tree include upland willow oak, sandjack oak, and cinnamon oak. It grows in USDA zones 7A to 9B, reaching an average size of 20 to 40 feet tall and wide at maturity, and flowers in the spring.
In conclusion, Florida is home to a variety of oak trees that offer a range of benefits, including shade, wind resistance, and beauty. These trees can be found in a variety of habitats, from forests and coastal dunes to residential yards and urban areas.
Some are better suited for certain climates and soil conditions, and some produce more pollen, which may be a factor for those with allergies. Regardless of the specific type of oak, these trees can add value and beauty to any landscape.