florida oak tree types

Florida Oak Trees

When you think of Florida trees, what comes to mind? Is it our state tree, the Sabal palm? Maybe it’s the spooky Cypress that fills our swamps. For me, it’s the Live Oak – bonus points if it’s covered in Spanish moss.

Oaks are one of the most common trees found in the Southeast. There are 19 native oak trees in Florida, with each either being a member of the white oak or red oak families.

White Oak vs. Red Oak

There are a few differences between white oaks and red oaks.

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Florida Oak Trees Identification

White Oak Family

Bluff Oak (Quercus austrina)

florida oak trees pictures
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Chapman Oak (Quercus chapmanii)

chapman oak, types of oak trees in florida
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)

florida oak trees
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Overcup Oak (Quercus lyrata)

overcup oak, oak tree identification florida
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Post Oak (Quercus stellata)

post oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana)

florida live oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Swamp Chestnut Oak (Quercus michauxii)

swamp chestnut
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

White Oak (Quercus alba)

florida oak trees types
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Red Oak Family

Black Oak (Quercus velutina)

black oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Blackjack Oak (Quercus marilandica)

blackjack oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Bluejack Oak (Quercus incana)

bluejack oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Laurel Oak (Quercus laurifolia)

laurel oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Myrtle Oak (Quercus myrtifolia)

myrtle oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii)

shumard oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)

southern red oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Swamp Red Oak (Quercus pagoda)

swamp red oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Turkey Oak (Quercus laevis)

Turkey Oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Water Oak (Quercus nigra)

water oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)

willow oak
Photo Credit: Bruce Kirchoff

Are Oak Trees Protected in Florida?

Yes and no. Whether or not an oak tree is protected in Florida depends on the location of the tree, the type of oak, the health of the tree, and the safety of the tree.

Florida has a law called “Private Property Rights.” This law states that if a licensed arborist declares a tree as a danger to people and property, you can do whatever you want with it if it’s on your land. You don’t need permission from the city or state to prune it, transplant it, or cut it down altogether.

This law doesn’t necessarily mean that you can do whatever you want with oak trees on your property, though. To be in compliance with the law, you need documentation from a licensed arborist proving that the tree is dangerous.

If the tree you want to cut down isn’t dangerous, then the rules get a little more complicated. Depending on the species, you can cut down a tree on your property as long as it’s not under a Tree Preservation Order. If you somehow live in a conservation area, then you can’t cut anything down without permission. Whether a species of tree is under a Tree Preservation Order depends on what part of the state you live in. In many parts of Florida, for instance, the live oak is a protected species.

To play it safe, you should contact your local city government for more information if you want to cut down a non-dangerous oak tree on your property.

Things to Consider Before Planting an Oak Tree

While it’s always best to plant native species, there are some important things to consider before planting an oak tree on your property.

Life Span

The average oak tree lifespan is 150-400 years, with some oaks living even longer. St. Augustine’s live oak named “Old Senator” is thought to be a whopping 600 years old!

As long as they remain healthy, an oak tree you plant on your property will be there long after you’re gone. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does mean you should take extra care when deciding where to plant your sapling.


Oaks aren’t the biggest trees in the United States, but they certainly aren’t small. Oaks grow from 50-100 feet tall and some species (like the live oak) have an enormous spread of up to 100 feet. These trees are best for those who have a decent-sized yard.

how big do live oaks get
Live Oak. Photo Credit: Neal Wellons


One of the biggest complaints from homeowners regarding oak trees is the leaf litter. A mature oak tree will lose tons and tons of leaves over the course of a season. Oak leaves also take a long time to break down. Unless you go out of your way to put your leaves in a compost pile and keep them wet and turned, it’ll take more than a year for your oak leaves to decompose. For these reasons, an oak may not be the best choice for those who strive to keep a meticulously manicured lawn.

Most oaks lose their leaves from January through February, with the exception of the live oak. Live oaks shed their leaves in springtime at the same time as it forms their new leaves. This makes the live oak is evergreen while the others are deciduous.

Root System

Compared to other trees, oak roots are shallow. Most of its root system grows in the top 18 inches of the soil. Because they’re so shallow, oaks have to spread their roots wide to maintain stability. A mature oak can have a root spread of up to 250 feet.

With this wide spread, oak roots are notorious for causing expensive damage for homeowners including:

  • Clogging plumbing lines
  • Breaching septic tanks
  • Causing uneven ground under pavement, patios, and pools
  • Foundation damage

Always make sure to plant oak trees 20 feet or more from buildings and structures.


oak tree in hurricane
Photo Credit: Roger W.

No matter what part of Florida you live in, you need to keep the threat of hurricanes at the forefront of your mind. Mature oaks may be sturdy, but they aren’t immune to hurricane damage. A big oak toppling over on your house would not only be devastating, but it could be deadly.

Flying limbs are also dangerous and annoying to clean up after the storm has passed. Make sure you have landscaping in your budget — oaks should be trimmed every 2 or 3 years to keep them healthy. safe, and manageable.

Featured Photo Credit: JasonDeMers

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