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16 Common Types of Oak Trees in Florida (Including Native)

There are nineteen species of oaks native to Florida. You will find them in the state’s forests, residential neighborhoods, and old farms. 

These common trees are beautiful, especially the sprawling and often mossy limbs of the Southern live oak.  

Broadly, two types of oaks in Florida are white and red. White oaks have soft rounded edges on their leaves, and red oaks have a jagged and pointy leaf shape. Also, white oaks grow much larger, reaching up to 80 feet.

Examples of whites are bluff oakchinkapin oak, and post oak. At the same time, the pointy-leaved laurelShumard, and water oak fall in the red oak category. 

The garden centers and nurseries in Florida offer a wide variety of oaks. This list should help you determine which is suitable for your yard space and landscape design.

Since most of these oaks are native to Florida, this article provides valuable tips for tree identification in the wild. 

16 Best Oak Trees to Grow in Florida

1. Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia)

Laurel Oak
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

Laurel oak is a fast-growing ornamental shade tree. It is common in the landscapes of suburban Florida. The tree features a rounded to oval crown with attractive dense foliage. 

Its leaves are similar to bay leaves (Laurus nobilis), which is the source of its name. The leaves are green and glossy on top, whereas underneath, they are light green and smooth. 

Laurel oak is semi-evergreen to deciduous. In north Florida, it may lose all of its leaves in late fall, but in the warmer areas of the state, it will keep at least some of its leaves throughout the year. 

Early in the spring, the tree features non-showy catkins, which turn into round brown acorns in the fall.  

Laurel oaks usually live between 50 – 70 years. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the trunks and large branches to hollow from decay or wood rot. Oaks like live oak are much more resilient to this threat. 

Laurel oak can grow in either full sun or partial shade. A unique feature of laurel oak is its tolerance of wet sites. It can tolerate a wide range of soils, from dry and sandy to moist and rich. 

Other Common Names: Swamp laurel oak, Diamond-leaf oak, Water oak, Obtusa oak

USDA Growing Zones: 6B – 10B

Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 70 feet tall and 35 – 40 feet wide

Flowering Season: Early Spring

2. Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii)

Shumard Oak
Image by F.D. Richards via Flickr

Shumard oak usually finds itself in parking lot islands. But you will also find them in many home landscapes and commercial settings. Native to north Florida and the panhandle, it is one of the largest in the red oak group. 

Shumard oak’s resilience is the source of its popularity. It can tolerate air pollution, compacted soil, drought, and poor drainage. 

But the tree is strong, and this deciduous also provides striking beauty. The large and deeply lobed leaves are about 4 to 8 inches long. They are dark green most of the year and turn to a brilliant red or red-orange in the fall.

Florida is not known for its fall foliage, but in late fall to early winter, there are spots in Florida’s planting zones, particularly in zones 9A northward with gorgeous fall colors. 

Shumard oak features a broad and open crown, and the tree becomes rounded and wider as it gets older. This growth habit makes it a remarkable shade tree. 

This oak has some of the largest acorns of the native Florida oaks, reaching up to 1.5 inches wide. They attract wildlife such as squirrels and deer. 

You can plant Shumard oak in acidic, neutral, or alkaline soils. Though it will grow in drier sites, rich and moist soil ensures better growth. Finally, this tree requires full sun exposure daily. 

Other Common Names: Spotted oak, Schneck oak, Shumard red oak, Swamp red oak

USDA Growing Zones: 5A – 9B

Average Size at Maturity: 55 – 80 feet tall and 40 – 50 feet wide

Flowering Season: Early Spring

3. Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)

Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)
Image by mongollon_1 via Flickr

Southern red oak is another massive tree with the tested durability to withstand hurricanes. It features a large, rounded canopy with open growth.

In the old days, many people used to call it Spanish oak. It was a popular tree in the Spanish North American colonial region.

The deciduous leaves are large and shiny. They measure 5 to 9 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide. You can spot these leaves easier than most because their terminal lobe is much longer and narrower than others. The leaves turn brown in the fall and winter before new growth pushes them out in the spring.

A unique and beautiful feature of southern red oak is its bark. The dark gray to black bark features ridges and furrows reminiscent of cherry bark.

Southern red oak is a moderately fast grower and works well as a specimen, shade, reclamation, or street tree. It tolerates a wide range of soils, has a high drought tolerance, and thrives in full sun.

Other Common Names: Spanish oak

USDA Growing Zones: 7A – 9B

Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 80 feet tall and 60 – 70 feet wide

Flowering Season: Early Spring

4. Water Oak (Quercus nigra)

Water Oak
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

Native to the swampy areas of Florida, water oak is one of the best oaks for southern Florida.

If you read through each of the descriptions on this list, you may notice that many of the oaks are best for USDA growing zones 8 and 9. That is because it is because some oak trees cannot tolerate the stress of year-round warmth.

Water oak has a spreading, rounded, and open canopy. In Florida, the tree is semi-evergreen, and some trees may show a lovely yellow fall color in the cooler parts of the state.

The leaves are green and shiny on top with pale undersides. They have a distinctive rounded paddle shape with a length of 2 to 4 inches.

A defining characteristic of water oak is that they produce an immense number of acorns. This is great for attracting and nourishing wildlife. But these acorns, once they fall, can stain the asphalt and concrete for several months.

Water oak is a rapid grower. But unfortunately, they do not live long – only 30 to 50 years. A shorter lifespan is common in areas of Florida with moist and rich soil.

Other Common Names: Black Oak, Possum Oak

USDA Growing Zones: 6A – 10B

Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 60 feet tall and 60 – 70 feet wide

Flowering Season: Early Spring

5. Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)

Willow Oak
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

Like laurel oak, willow oak gets its name from another tree, the willow. Its leaves have a similar shape to those of willow trees. But also, its branches have a drooping habit, reminiscent of a weeping willow. 

The foliage is light to bright green much of the year and turns yellow-brown in the fall. However, in many cases, it will just turn brown in Florida. But, come spring, the new leaves have an eye-catching bright green color. 

Though not native to Florida, it is one of the most common types of oak in the state. You will find them being used as shade trees, in parks, or along streets. 

When it is young, the tree has a pyramidal shape but becomes more rounded as its ages. The growth is fast, and typically the crown displays dense foliage. 

It is best to plant willow oak in full sun. If you are living near the ocean, it is a great choice because it is tolerant of aerosol salt. In addition, since Florida is prone to drought, this is a great choice as it has high drought tolerance. 

USDA Growing Zones: 6A – 9A

Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 75 feet tall and 40 – 50 feet wide

Flowering Season: Early Spring

6. Bluff Oak (Quercus austrina)

Bluff Oak
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

Bluff oak is common along stream banks in northern Florida and the panhandle. There it thrives alongside red maple, elms, and black gum. But it also is a common choice among Florida landscapers. 

The tree features dark green lobed leaves that are shiny on top and pale underneath. The leaves are deciduous, and following cooler falls may display copper, yellow, or orange tones. Otherwise, the leaves will just fall off or turn brown. 

Like Shumard oak, this is a popular oak tree for parking lots and along streets and boulevards. This tree is great for such and other open spaces because they need plenty of room for crown development. Another reason is that there are no major pests or diseases that affect these trees.  

On care, bluff oak requires full sun and well-drained soil. In addition, this tree has excellent drought- tolerance. 

Other Common Names: Bastard White Oak

USDA Growing Zones: 8A – 9B

Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 60 feet tall and 35 – 50 feet wide

Flowering Season: Early Spring

7. Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)

Chinkapin Oak
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

If you have a large yard, estate, or park that needs some trees, the Chinkapin oak is an excellent choice. This large and spreading shade tree has a slow to medium growth rate. As the tree ages, it has a rounded and dominant presence.

Chinkapin oak features medium to large glossy dark green leaves, which are usually between 4 to 6 ½ inches long.

The leaves are not always guaranteed to change in Florida, but if they do, you will get the chance to see the tree’s beautiful yellow orange to orangish-brown shades. The tree has an ashy light gray bark with narrow, thin flakes.

Chinkapin oak will grow well in most types of soil, even those that are wet. It has some drought tolerance but will not do well if it becomes too severe.

Another common name for the tree is chestnut oak, and as the name suggests, it is because of its chestnut-like edible acorns.

Other Common Names: Chestnut Oak

USDA Growing Zones: 3A – 8B

Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 60 feet tall and 50 – 60 feet wide

Flowering Season: Early Spring

8. Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)

Live Oak
Image by Chris M Morris via Flickr

This oak tree is the star of this list. This sprawling yet graceful tree with Spanish moss hanging off its massive and furrowed branches is one of the symbolic images of the Old South.

You will find this tree growing in old plantations, mansion yards, parks, and residential areas throughout the central and upper parts of the state. It is truly a picturesque addition to any landscape.

This evergreen tree grows rapidly when young and can live for centuries. It is usually much wider than it is tall and has a rounded shape. The thick and twisting branches of this tree have some of the most remarkable wind resistance of any tree. For this reason, it is a great choice for this hurricane-prone state.

The bark is reddish brown and furrowed when young. As the tree matures, it turns dark gray to almost black, with a rough and even more furrowed bark.

Southern live oak boats leathery leaves, which are about 2 – 5 inches long. The leaves are glossy and dark green on top with a pale underside. They remain on the tree until the following spring, when new leaves push out the old ones.

Southern live oak adapts to a range of soil types. It prefers a normal amount of moisture and has flood and drought tolerance. If you plant it on a drier site, the tree will take on a dwarf form.

Other Common Names: Live oak

USDA Growing Zones: 7B – 10B

Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 80 feet tall with a spread of 60 – 120 feet

Flowering Season: Early Spring

9. Overcup Oak (Quercus lyrata)

Overcup Oak
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

Compared to other oaks on this list, overcup oak is a slow grower. It is an important tree in urban settings because of its neat and uniform shape.

Overcup oak features a beautiful reddish or gray-brown bark. Its leaves are leathery and dark green most of the year, featuring fuzzy and white undersides. During the fall, the leaves turn rich yellow-brown, but this is more likely the case in the northern half of the state.

The acorns are round and about ¾ to 1 inch in diameter, and they almost cover the entire nut. This is the source of the tree’s common name. The acorns attract squirrels and other small mammals but can be a bit messy.

Like most of the oaks on this list, Overcup oak grows in a wide range of soils and prefers full sun.

Other Common Names: Swamp Post Oak, Swamp White Oak, Water White Oak

USDA Growing Zones: 6A – 9A

Average Size at Maturity: 45 – 70 feet tall with a width of 35 – 50 feet

Flowering Season: Early Spring

10. Post Oak (Quercus stellata)

Post Oak
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

Post oak is common in dry, low-fertility, sandy soils. As such, it has remarkable drought tolerance. This slow-growing oak is rarely found in nurseries. Instead, you will find, in most cases growing on the edges of fields.

A quick way to identify post oak is by its leaves. The leaves have three perpendicular terminal lobes, which makes them look like a Maltese cross. Like most other oaks, the texture is leathery, and this particular oak has some short hairs underneath it.

Due to its thick bark, post oak has the ability to survive forest fires. In forests, the tree’s acorns provide food for deer, squirrels, and other rodents.

Other Common Names: Iron oak, Box white oak, Rough oak

USDA Growing Zones: 6A – 9A

Average Size at Maturity: 40 – 50 feet tall with a spread of 35 – 50 feet

Flowering Season: Spring

11. White Oak (Quercus alba)

White Oak
Image by Wendy Cutler via Flickr

White oak is a long-lived, beautiful, and stately tree. Sadly, only those in north Florida and the panhandle can benefit from its charm. This type of oak struggles to thrive in the year-round warmth of southern Florida.

In Florida, the deciduous white oak goes dormant for a short period of time, which is when it is best looking. The light gray, plated bark and open crown are attractive.

The leaves are blue-green and shiny on top with a pale green to white underneath. In late fall, they turn wine-red or orange-red, then brown. The brown leaves linger on the tree well into the short Florida winter.

If you decide to plant white oak, there are a few important things to know. With a six-foot diameter trunk at maturity, it is best for a large landscape, allowing the tree to spread with ease.

You will have to be patient as this tree is slow growing. The benefit of this slow growth is that the tree has strong branches that can withstand storms.

USDA Growing Zones: 3B – 8B

Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 80 feet tall with a spread of 50 – 80 feet

Flowering Season: Spring

12. Turkey Oak (Quercus laevis)

Turkey Oak
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

Turkey oak is one of the best oaks to attract wildlife, including squirrels, deer, and, as the name suggests, turkey. The source of the attraction is the abundant acorn crop the tree produces. 

While the acorns do attract turkey, that is not the reason why the tree is called turkey oak. The common names come from the shape of its leaves which resemble a turkey’s foot. 

This oak is common in Florida’s forests. It thrives in dry and sandy spots in the wild among pine trees

Though because of its compact size, it is a great choice for small to medium-sized home landscapes. Another great reason to plant turkey oak is its high wind resistance, which is appropriate in hurricane-prone Florida. 

Unfortunately, turkey oak produces a large amount of pollen. As this is a source of allergy for many people, it is not a great choice for many homeowners. 

USDA Growing Zones: 7B – 10A

Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 30 feet tall with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Spring

13. Chapman Oak (Quercus chapmanii)

Chapman Oak
Image by Homer Edward Price via Flickr

Chapman oak gets its name from physician and botanist A.W. Chapman (1809 – 1899). He was the first person to record this oak species in his book, “Flora of the Southeastern United States.” 

In its natural habitat, this oak grows in the dry and sandy ridges and coastal dunes of most of Florida. It is a small and shrub-like tree with multiple stems. It rarely grows more than 30 feet in height. 

The leaves are glossy dark green with a light gray to yellow underneath. In north Florida, the tree is deciduous, but in the warmer region of the state, it is semi-evergreen. 

Chapman oak blooms in the spring, and its acorns mature faster than most oaks – within one season. Florida scrub jay, woodpeckers, and wild turkey are some of the birds which adore these acorns. But small mammals such as squirrels, raccoons, and white-tailed deer love them too. 

Warning: Chapman oak’s pollen is a severe allergen. Seasonal allergy sufferers should reconsider planting this tree. 

USDA Growing Zones: 8B – 10B

Average Size at Maturity: 5 – 15 feet tall with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Spring

14. Myrtle Oak (Quercus myrtifolia)

Myrtle Oak
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

Like Chapman oak, myrtle oak is another shrub oak. This oak gets its name from its leaves which resemble plants in the Myrtus or myrtle genus. 

This type of oak is one of the most common on the Florida coastline. In these spots, the soil is dry and sandy. 

Myrtle oak features a spreading rounded crown and a smooth dark brown bark. The evergreen leaves are shiny, leathery, and dark green, measuring about 2-inches. Underneath, they are yellow-green to orangish brown. 

You can plant myrtle oak in full sun or partial shade. Given that it is an understory tree, it doesn’t have a strong need for direct sunlight, though too much shade is not good for growth. 

Myrtle oak is great for small yards. You can use it as a hedge or a small screen. 

USDA Growing Zones: 8A – 9B

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 20 feet tall with a spread of 8 – 10 feet

Flowering Season: Spring

15. Bluejack Oak (Quercus incana)

Bluejack Oak (Quercus incana)
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

Bluejack oak gets its name from the bluish color of its deciduous leaves. In the wild, you will find them growing in the sandy soils of ridges, scrublands, and hills, especially among the native pines. The tree is native to the subtropical areas of Florida. 

On the top side, the leaves are bluish to ashy green, and underneath they are silvery. The tree features a thick bark that is dark gray to black with wide and deep furrows.

In recent years, with the suburbanization of Florida, large oaks such as live oak are now impractical. For this reason, more compact shade trees such as bluejack oak are becoming more popular.

In addition, you can train this oak to maintain a neat and symmetrical form through annual pruning. Unfortunately, the acorns can stain light-colored pavements. 

Other Common Names: Upland willow oak, Sandjack oak, Cinnamon oak

USDA Growing Zones: 7A – 9B

Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 40 feet tall with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Spring

16. Black Oak (Quercus velutina)

Black Oak_Florida
Image by Bruce Kirchoff via Flickr

Black oak is a common tree in the Florida panhandle and throughout the eastern half of North America. You can find them in various spots in the forest, from dry slopes to areas with moist and rich soils. You will rarely find them in the bottomlands.

The leaves are about 4 – 8 inches long with a shiny deep green upper surface. Underneath, they are yellowish-brown. The tree’s bark is rough and blackish, hence its common name.

This potentially massive tree needs plenty of room to spread. You can use black oak as a street tree or as a shade tree in a large open spot.

Other Common Names: Yellow oak, Eastern Black Oak

USDA Growing Zones: 3A – 9B

Average Size at Maturity: 50 – 60 feet tall with a similar spread

Flowering Season: Spring

Florida has more than palm trees!

Any Florida landscaper or grower seeking to plant oak trees has many options. So much so that the University of Florida publishes tons of articles, research, and guides for us to learn more about the state’s many oak types. Clearly, palm trees are not the only option in Florida!    

The environment and climate of the northern part of the state are much more temperate with deciduous broadleaf trees, while the southern bit is more evergreen and tropical.

That said, those living in Florida growing zones 8A – 9A can pick any of the oak trees on this list. However, in southern Florida, laurel oak, live oak, and turkey oak are better picks as they do fine in this warmer climate.  

You may notice from this list that not all oaks are massive shade trees. Some, such as myrtle oak and Chapman oak, are quite shrubby and compact – excellent for smaller yards. 

Many of the oak trees on this list are native to Florida. These tough and durable trees have great resistance to hurricanes and boast long lifespans.

They grow relatively quickly and will provide welcomed shade during the hot and humid Florida summers.

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