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The live oak of the deep south is a medium size broad tree with a short trunk. It is on the widest domed trees of any other tree and is many time found gracefully laced with grey Spanish moss. It is an evergreen tree that has unlobed, leathery leaves that are rounded at the tip. The edges are often rolled under with a dark shiny green surface. The underside of the leaves are grey and covered with what appears to be fine hairs. The fruits of the live oak are acorns which are around 3\4 inch long. The acorns are narrow and green, becoming deep brown in the paler cups on long stalks. The live oak has both male and female flowers. The male flowers are thin, hanging catkins while the female flowers are small and form at the base of the leaves. Live oaks do well in sandy, moist soil.
With over 450 species of oak in the world, they are know to grow as tree, bush, scrub, diciduous and evergreen. Over 80 of the species of oak grow in North America and of those, 60 are trees. With the differences between acorns and leaves in the oak family, it might be suggested that there is a considerable variation between the species. In reality, the live oaks are few with one species in the east and about six appearing in the west.
The white oak in the northeast, with its name coming from the color of its trunk which is gray and scaly. The black oaks have bark that is blackish colored and furrowed.. The leaves of the black oak are rounded at the ends and its acorns are reasonably sweet to eat. The red oak has a blackish brown corrugated bark with leaves that have less indented bays and sharp pointed, bristly lobes. The acorns on the red oak can last up to two years. The largest oak in the western United States is the valley oak or what is better known as the California oak. The best specimen today is 120 feet high and 28 feet in diameter. The leaf spread on this tree is over 103 feet.
In identifying the oak, the large variation in the shape of the leaf occurring in each group and the difference in acorns has been helpful. The three characteristics that single out certain oaks as trees of special beauty are their autumn color, their branching habits and their texture. White the classic oak has a bold and wide branching patter with a stocky trunk, the red and black oak tend to be narrower with more tower than dome. The oak most planted in America is the pin oak which has an abundance of thin, straight branches. The upper branches of this tree climb to make a narrow crown with the lower branches drooping at times to the ground.
The incredibly beautiful live oak of the south has the most distinct shape. Growing twice as wide as it is tall, the southern live oak will often be around 138 feet wide and only 71 feet tall. The scarlet oak is the most brilliant of the oaks in autumn. They produce bright red orange leaves on long, relatively slender branches with an open crown that tends to cast a light shade. Like many of the southern oaks, the water oak will grow even in the north if placed in relatively dry ground. This oak will keep its leaves for half the winter or more. The willow oak was named for its narrow, unlobed, willow like leaves. It has the finest texture of all the oaks and makes a graceful lightly built tree.