Deep Rooted Stability Makes the Southern Live Oak Strong
The Southern Live Oak is stately, growing as high as sixty feet. The branch spread is equally as impressive, oftentimes twice as wide as it is tall, and can even be seen from space.
It is not uncommon for the limbs to dip toward the ground before growing upward again, giving the tree a rather macabre appearance.
Its thick trunk and deep root system is perfectly suited to Florida’s wet and dry seasons and helps to anchor the tree during times of hurricanes and other tropical storms.
A slow growing tree, Live Oaks can live for hundreds of years. Known as “Grand” trees, they were often used in shipbuilding during the Revolutionary War. In fact, Southern Live Oak hardwood was used in the frame of the U.S.S. Constitution, dubbed “Old Ironsides”, now berthed in Boston Harbor.
The oak leaf itself is small, oval, and deep olive green (pale on the other side). The leaves are also shiny, giving a glittery illusion when a soft breeze rustles through. In times of extreme cold, or to make room for new leaves, the brittle leaves turn brown and carpet the ground below.
Live Oak Eco-System: a Perfect Home for a Variety of Species
Like humans, the Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), a member of the beech family and an evergreen species of oak, has its hangers-on. In fact, the oak becomes its own eco-system, supporting life not only for birds, snakes, and bugs, but plants, as well. Some, such as orchids, mosses, and resurrection ferns, are benign and under the right circumstances, can flourish, but not all plant species are as kind. Mistletoe, for instance is parasitic.
Live Oaks are Truly “Old Florida”
The oldest documented Live Oak is over 1,000 years old, but without cutting into the tree, it is impossible to date Live Oaks beyond reasonable doubt.
The Live Oak is the south’s most identifiable anchor, marking the path for Native Americans, and later, plantation owners. Impressive displays of Live Oaks can be seen across the south and the Live Oaks that form the tree tunnel on Canopy Road through Myakka River State Park should be counted among them.
When you visit Florida, take time to appreciate the Live Oak and consider the lesson in putting down roots that run deep enough to provide stability when the storms come.