News and Blog Articles
News and Blog Articles
If you’ve ever visited Georgia’s coastline, like Savannah or Jekyll Island, then you’ve definitely seen the majestic Live Oak. These massive, craggy old trees are dripping with Spanish moss, and their limbs are so heavy, they sometimes have to reach to the ground before growing up again. Their trunks stretch high in the sky, and just the sight of one makes you feel like you’re surrounded by history—and in a way, you are! The Southern Live Oak is Georgia’s official State tree.
Back in 1937, the Edmund Burke Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution advocated for the Live Oak to be given this honor. Specifically, they called for the adoption of the Live Oak as “the official tree emblematic of the State of Georgia.” This wording is noteworthy, because it’s different than the way other states identify their State trees.
The Daughters of the American Revolution cited these reasons to justify their choice:
On February 25, 1937, Georgia’s legislature approved the decision with Joint Resolution No. 14, which reads:
Whereas in many of the States of the Union some tree indigenous to the soil of the State has been chosen as an emblem of its sovereignty; and
Live Oaks (also known as Virginia Live Oaks, thanks to their scientific name, Quercus virginiana) are well-known for their looks. They grow just as wide as they do tall, which is saying something, considering mature Live Oaks can reach heights of 65 to 85 feet. Their trunks are usually so big around that multiple people would have to join hands to fully circle it.
Where most tree limbs grow up and out from a third to halfway up the trunk, Live Oak limbs grow thick and heavy from close to the base of the tree, and they stretch more outward than they do upward. This growth pattern usually leads to the weight of the limb dragging the entire thing down until it hits the ground, where it finds more support and can stretch back up again.
On average, adult Live Oaks stand around 40 to 50 feet tall, with a crown spread around 80 feet and branches that measure up to 5 or 6 feet in diameter. They’re considered one of the faster-growing trees when young, clocking around 2 feet of height per year. Once they’re established, however, that growth rate slows down significantly. The growth rate of fully matured Live Oaks is almost entirely stalled, as they devote most of their energy to supporting their massive size.
As you might be able to guess, Live Oaks grow best in well-drained, sandy soil with plenty of moisture, and prefer high humidity and full sun—exactly what you find along the coast. They can tolerate drier climates and more compact soils, but they will grow much slower and likely won’t reach their full potential. Live Oaks that do grow in their favorite environment are one of the longest-living oak species. On average, any given Live Oak you see is probably 200 to 300 years old.
DID YOU KNOW?
The largest Live Oak on record was discovered in 1976 close to Louisburg, Louisiana. Its trunk diameter measured 11.65 feet across, and its branches reached 55 feet into the sky. But what made this tree a national champion was its crown spread, which stretched 132 feet wide!
If you don’t live near the coast, you might not realize that Live Oaks grow and drop acorns just like all other oaks. These dark-brown, almost black fruits measure around 1 inch long and often grow in clusters of 3 to 5.
Live Oaks are generally pruned when young to establish one strong, central trunk structure, but otherwise require little to no maintenance. They are susceptible to a fungal gall called leaf blister, but this usually only disfigures a few leaves and doesn’t cause any serious damage. You can rake up and burn or otherwise dispose of infected leaves to help reduce the chances of a tree contracting the fungus again. While other oak species are at a high risk for oak wilt disease, which can kill even the largest of trees, there have been no documented cases of oak wilt in Live Oaks, potentially because of their salty surroundings.
Though they often appear lighter green thanks to the interspersing of Spanish Moss, Live Oak leaves are actually a dark green, and covered with a waxy coating that protects them from salt spray. Unlike other oak species that lose their leaves seasonally, Live Oaks are nearly evergreen. Old leaves will yellow and drop only when new leaves begin to push through, sometime around late winter to early spring.
If you’re concerned that an oak tree on your property (or any tree, for that matter) might have some kind of disease or fungal infection, check out our article to learn how to identify signs of decay. Or, contact us for a free estimate!
Overall, the Southern Live Oak is a huge part of Georgia’s history. You can find them on postcards, stamps, and in all kinds of art across the entire state. They line the driveways to old antebellum mansions and decorate the parks of coastal towns. Low-hanging limbs are perfect for climbing, or relaxing with a good book. Their shade is refreshing on a hot summer day, and their leaves rustling in the breeze is a soothing balm to the soul.
Emily Casuccio is sister and sister-in-law to Rebekah and Scott Rushing, and has over half a decade of experience in copywriting, copyediting, proofreading, and developmental storyboarding. She's worked with both published and undiscovered authors on both fiction and nonfiction, and takes pride in supporting local businesses. Her passion lies in the written word and helping authors of all capacities realize their dreams and achieve their fullest potential. To learn more about her, read samples of her work, or contact her, visit her online portfolio.