These trees have the characteristic of evergreen foliage; they remain green and “live” throughout winter, when other oaks are dormant and leafless. Southern Live Oaks are confined to warm parts of the country, because of their inability to survive freezing temperatures.
I enjoyed seeing this tree on my visit to South Carolina last month. To me they are an iconic part of the southeast states. Although live oaks retain their leaves nearly year-round, they are not true evergreens, since they drop their leaves immediately before new leaves emerge in the spring.
The bark is dark, thick, and furrowed longitudinally. The leaves are stiff and leathery, with the tops shiny dark green and the bottoms pale gray. The moss that frequently hangs from the tree branches it often used by birds to construct nests.
Its small (1/2 to 1 inch) acorns are oblong in shape, shiny and tan-brown to nearly black and are often black at the tips. They are eaten by birds and mammals, including sapsuckers, mallards, wild turkey, squirrels, black bears and deer.
Southern Live Oaks tend to survive fire, because often a fire will not reach their crowns. Even if a tree is burned, its crowns and roots usually survive the fire and sprout vigorously afterwards.
These are majestic trees that are emblems of the South. When given enough room to grow, their sweeping limbs plunge toward the ground before shooting upward, creating an impressive array of branches.