Florida Forestry Information
Fagaceae
The Beech Family
 
The beech family is contains 9 genera and about 600 species of plants, which are scattered throughout the forests of the world.  However, the shrubs and trees of this family are much more abundant in the Northern Hemisphere.  Of the 5 genera indigenous to North America, 2 are native to Florida.  The most common, or well known genus, Quercus, includes the various oaks that grow in Florida. 
 
 Click on the links below for introductions to some of the trees of this family:
 
chinkapin
turkey oak
American beech
laurel oak
white oak
myrtle oak
 bluff oak
swamp chestnut oak
overcup oak
water oak
southern red oak
Shumard oak
bluejack oak
live oak
 
sand live oak
 
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Castanea pumila 
Chinkapin
 
Habit 

The chinkapin is a shrub or small tree, 10-30 feet in height, 6-18 inches in diameter.  In the southeast, it is often shrubby and forms dense thickets. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  Leaves are 3-5 inches long, 1.5-2 inches wide, elliptical in shape, with an acute apex.  The leaf base is unequal.  Leaf margins are coarsely serrate, with rigid teeth.  Leaves are yellow-green above, pubescent below.  Leaf petioles are short, stout, and flattened. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual, monoecious, and occur on stout stems, 4-6 inches long. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is a smooth, brown, edible nut, 3/4 inch long, pubescent near the tip.  This nut is covered with needle-sharp, branched spines.  The seed is sweet. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender, pubescent at first, becoming orange-brown and glabrous during the first winter.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is up to 1 inch thick, reddish-brown, and broken into loose, plate-like scales. 
 
Habitat 

The chinkapin grows in sandy or rich soils on hillsides and along swamp borders.  It is found from southern Pennsylvania east to New Jersey; south to north and western Florida, the gulf states, through Arkansas to Oklahoma and  Missouri. 
 
Use 

The fruit of this tree is a source of food for many small animals.  The wood is very durable and is used locally for poles, posts, and crossties. 
 

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Fagus Grandifolia 
American beech 
 
Habit 

The American beech is a medium-sized tree, 60-80 feet in height, 2-3 feet in diameter.  In the open it branches close to the ground and forms a large, open, spreading crown.  In the forest, the bole is clear and straight and supports a small, narrow crown.  The root system is very shallow, and many root suckers grow under the canopy of the mature parent tree. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  Leaves are 3-5 inches long, 1-2.5 inches wide, oval to elliptical in shape, with an acute apex.  The leaf base is wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are serrate.  Leaves are dark green above, yellow-green below.  Leaves are glabrous above and below.  Leaf petioles are 1/4-1/2 inch long. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are monoecious and appear in rounded heads, 1 inch in diameter, supported by slender pubescent stalks. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is a 3-angled nut, occurring in pairs, sometimes in 3.  The nut is enclosed within a bur covered with soft unbranched spines. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender, usually zig-zagging, pale green at first, becoming yellowish-brown and glabrous at maturity.  The pith is homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is thin, smooth, steel gray, and showing little or no change with increased diameter of the bole. 
 
Habitat 

The American beech grows in rich soils on mountain slopes, bottomlands, and along swamp borders.  In the north it is commonly associated with yellow birch and maple.  In the south it is associated with sweetgum, yellow-poplar, sycamore, and numerous bottomland oaks.  It is found from southern Canada to Wisconsin; south to northern Florida and eastern Texas. 
 
Use 

The American beech produces wood with many uses.  With birch and maple it is used to obtain charcoal, wood alcohol, and acetate of lime.  Limited quantities are also used in the soda process in the manufacture of paper pulp.  It is used in the manufacture of various wood products.  The nuts have a high oil content and are consumed in vast quntities by small game animals and birds. 
 

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Quercus alba 
white oak 
 
Habit 

The white oak is a large tree, 80-150 feet in height, 3-5 feet in diameter.  In the forest, it develops a tall, clean, straight trunk with a small crown.  Grown in the open, it has shorter bole and a broad, rugged, spreading crown. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  Leaves are 5-9 inches long, 2-4 inches wide, deeply 7-9 lobed, with rounded sinuses nearly reaching the midrib.  The apex is usually 3-lobed.  The base is wedge-shaped.  Leaves are bright green and glabrous above, paler below.  The leaf midrib is yellow.  Petioles are stout and up to 1 inch in length. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual, monoecious, solitary, and short-stalked. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an acorn, solitary or in pairs, sessile, or short-stalked.  The nut is about 3/4 inch long, oval or oblong, and light brown. 

Twigs 

The twigs are slender to moderately stout, pale at first, becoming gray.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is light gray and variable.  At first, it is broken into scaly rectangles, later becoming thicker and divided into ridges separated by shallow fissures. 
 
Habitat 

The white oak grows in a variety of habitats.  It obtains its largest sizes on moist, rich soils, usually in association with other species.  It also reaches large sizes on sandy soils and stony ridges.   It is found in southeastern Canada and the eastern United States, excluding the lower peninsula of Florida and northwestern Minnesota. 
 
Use 

The white oak is the most important timber species of the white oaks.  It was widely used for ship building and general construction work.  The acorns of this species is a significant part of the squirrel's diet.  It has been recorded that native Americans found them palatable after prolonged boiling. 
 

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Quercus durandii 
bluff oak, Durand oak 
 
bluff oak, photo by Chris DemersHabit 

The bluff oak is a medium-sized to large deciduous tree.  The tree may reach 60-80 feet in height, 2-3 feet in diameter.  It is distinguished by its yellow-green, oblong-elliptical, 3-lobed leaves. 

Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  Leaves are variable in size, and vary in the number of lobes per leaf.  Leaf blades can be unlobed or with few, irregular, short lobes.  It is difficult to describe the lobing patterns in concise terms.  Leaves are dark green, lustrous, and glabrous above, paler, olive-green, and less glabrous below.  Leaf bluff oak leaves, photo by Chris Demerspetioles are short and glabrous. 

Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and monoecious. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an acorn enclosing an ovoid, lustrous nut, about 1/2 inch long. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are reddish-brown to green and slightly pubescent.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is light gray and scaly, similar to that of white oak. 
 
Habitat 

The bluff oak grows in a variety of habitats, but is not abundant anywhere.  It is restricted to the deep south from Georgia west to eastern Texas and south. 
 
Use 

The bluff oak is of limited value as a timber species. 
 

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Quercus lyrata 
overcup oak 
 
Habit 

The overcup oak is a small, irregular tree with crooked or twisted branches.  It may occasionally reach  100 feet in height and 2-3 feet in diameter.  The crown is characteristically irregular and open.  The root system is shallow and widespread. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  Leaves 6-10 inches long, 1-4 inches wide, overall oval-elliptical in shape, with a variable apex.  The leaf base is wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are 5-9 lobed and are extremely variable.  Leaf sinuses are irregular in width and depth.  Leaves are dark green, lustrous, and glabrous above, paler and pubescent or nearly glabrous below.  Leaf petioles are slender, about 1 inch long. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and monoecious. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an acorn, in pairs or solitary, and are nearly sessile.  The nut is ovoid, brown, and up to 1 inch long. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender, gray-brown, and glabrous.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is up to 1 inch thick, gray-brown, rough, irregularly ridged or flattened, and often appearing spirally distorted. 
 
Habitat 

The overcup oak is a bottomland species which grows on poorly drained, clay soils subject to prolonged inundation with water.  It is most generally associated with willow, water oak, swamp chestnut oak, persimmon, elms, green ash, and waterlocust.  It is found on the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plain from southern New Jersey to northern Florida and west Texas; through the Mississippi drainage basin to Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. 
 
Use 

This tree is of limited value as rough lumber. 
 

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Quercus falcata 
southern red oak 
 
Habit 

The southern red oak is a medium-sized tree, 70-80 feet in height, 2-3 feet in diameter.  It has spreading branches, forming a broad, open, round crown. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  Leaves are 5-9 inches long, 4-5 inches wide, and of 2 basic types: (1) oval-shaped with 3 bristle-tipped lobes, or (2) deeply 5-7 lobed.  Leaf bases are bell-shaped.  Leaves are lustrous dark green above, rusty-pubescent below.  Leaf petioles are flattened, slender, and 1-2 inches long. 

Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual, monoecious, and are solitary or in few-flowered spikes on stout, hairy stalks. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an acorn, solitary or in pairs.  The nut is 1/2 inch long and orange-brown. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are stout, orange-pubescent at first, becoming glabrous and dark red in the second season, pubescent at first, becoming orange-brown and glabrous during the first winter.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is up to 1 inch thick, dark brown or black, with rough scaly ridges separated by deep fissures. 
 
Habitat 

The southern red oak grows on dry, upland, infertile, sandy soils.  It is found on the coastal plain and Piedmont from New Jersey to central Florida; west to Texas; north to southern Illinois and Indiana. 
 
Use 

This tree is of moderate importance as a timber tree. 
 

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Quercus incana 
bluejack oak 
 
Habit 

Bluejack red oak is small, often shrubby tree, sometimes forming thickets by underground runners.  It has a short, irregular trunk and an open crown. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  Leaves are 1-4 inches long, 1/2-2 inches wide, elliptical in shape, are generally unlobed, and have an obtuse or acute apex, sometimes with very small bristle tips.  Leaf margins are entire.  Leaf bases are rounded.  Leaf surfaces are bluish-green and glabrous above, pale and gray-pubescent below.   and of 2 basic types: (1) oval-shaped with 3 bristle-tipped lobes, or (2) deeply 5-7 lobed.  Leaf petioles are short and pubescent. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and monoecious. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an acorn, solitary or in pairs, and round or oval in shape. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender with tiny gray hairs.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is dark gray or black. 
 
Habitat 

The bluejack oak grows on well-drained sandy ridges and flats of pineland.  It is found on the coastal plain and Piedmont from southeastern Virginia to north central Florida; west to central Texas, southwestern Arkansas, and southeastern Oklahoma. 
 
Use 

It is used locally for fuel. 
 

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Quercus laevis 
turkey oak 
 
Habit 

Turkey oak is small tree, 20-30 feet in height, up to 2 feet in diameter, usually smaller.  It has a broad, open, irregular or round crown.  It is often shrubby on the poorest sites. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  Leaves are 3-12 inches long, 1-8 inches wide, oval or triangular in shape, are 3-7 lobed, and have sharply pointed tips.  The terminal lobes are irregular and the apex is 3 toothed.  Leaf bases are wedge-shaped.  Leaves are lustrous yellow-green above, paler below, sometimes with rusty-red pubescence.  Leaf petioles are short, stout, and grooved. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and monoecious. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an acorn, usually solitary.  The nut is ovoid, up to 1 inch long, brown, and woolly at the tip. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are stout, red, becoming dark brown and glabrous.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is dark gray, becoming nearly black, red within, scaly with irregular fissures. 
 
Habitat 

The turkey oak is an upland tree which grows on well-drained, sandy, sterile soils.  It is commonly associated with longleaf pine and bluejack and post oaks.  It is found on the coastal plain and Piedmont from southeastern Virginia to central Florida; west to Louisiana. 
 
Use 

It is used locally for fuel and in construction on farms. 
 

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Quercus laurifolia 
laurel oak 
 
laurel oak, photo by Chris DemersHabit 

The laurel oak is usually a medium-sized tree, 50-60 feet in height, up to 3-4 feet in diameter.  It can sometimes reach a height of 100 feet.  Its slender branches form a broad, round, dense, symmetrical crown. 

Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  Leaves are 2-4 inches long, 1/2-1 inch wide, elliptical in shape, and have an acute apex.  Leaf margins are irregularly lobed.  Leaves are lustrous green above, pale below.  The midrib is yellow.  Leaf bases are wedge-shaped.  Leaf petioles are short, stout, yellow, and 1/4 inch long. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and monoecious. 
 
Fruit 

Fruit is an acorn, usually solitary.  The nut is ovoid, up to 1 inch long, brownish-black, 1/2 inch long. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender, deep red, and glabrous.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is up to 1/2 inch thick, dark reddish-brown, smooth at first, becoming divided into deep fissures separated by broad, flat ridges. 
 
Habitat 

The laurel oak is scattered on sandy soils near streams and swamps.  It is found on the coastal plain from North Carolina to central Florida; west to Louisiana.  It is most abundant in Florida. 
 
Use 

It is a common ornamental in many parts of the south.  The wood is of little value but it is used locally for fuel. 
 

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Quercus myrtifolia 
myrtle oak 
 
Habit 

The myrtle oak is a small evergreen oak, seldom over 35 feet in height or 4-8 inches in diameter.  It forms extensive thickets, and when exposed, adds an attractive element to the seascape. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and persistent.  Leaves are small, 1-2 inches long, oval in shape, with a spiny tip at the apex.  Leaf margins are entire.  Leaves are lustrous dark green above, paler green, sometimes yellowish-green or orangish-brown below.  Leaf bases are rounded or wedge-shaped.  Leaf petioles are very short and somewhat winged. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and monoecious. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an ovoid-shaped acorn, sometimes in pairs.  The nut is up to 1/2 inch long. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are brown and pubescent.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is light gray on young trunks and dark gray, rough, and coated with lichens on mature trunks. 
 
Habitat 

It is usually found near salt water, on southern shores and adjacent islands from South Carolina to Mississippi, including Florida. 
 
Use 

It is of little or no commercial value. 
 

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Quercus michauxii (formerly known as Quercus prinus) 
swamp chestnut oak, basket oak, cow oak 
 
Habit 

swamp chestnut oak, photo by Chris DemersThe swamp chestnut oak is a tree, usually 60-80 feet in height, 2-3 feet in diameter.  In the forest, it has a short, compact, round crown.  Grown in the open, it branches 15-30 feet above the ground to form a low, spreading, open crown. 

Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  Leaves are 5-8 inches long, 3-4 inches wide, oval to elliptical in shape, with a rounded or acute apex.  Leaf bases are wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are coarsely wavy-toothed, with glandular-tipped teeth.  Leaves are dark lustrous green above, pale and silvery-pubescent below.     Leaf petioles about 3/4 inches long. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and monoecious. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an acorn, solitary or in pairs, and nearly sessile.  The nut is 1-1.5 inch long and lustrous brown. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are stout, red or brown, becoming brownish-gray.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is up to 1 inch thick, irregularly furrowed, scaly, gray on the outer surface, and red within. 
 
Habitat 

The swamp chestnut oak grows in moist, poorly-drained bottomlands subject to periodic innundation with water.  It is usually found in association with water oak, cherrybark oak, willow oak, sweetgum, and red ash.  It is found along the Atlantic coastal plain from southern New Jersey to northern Florida; west along the Gulf coastal plain to Texas; north through the Mississippi drainage basin to southern Indiana and Illinois. 
 
Use 

The wood of the swamp chestnut oak is used in the manufacture of farm implements, posts, and baskets.  The wood is similar in quality to white oak, but not produced in the same quantity. 
 

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Quercus nigra 
water oak 
 
Habit 

The water oak is a tall, slender tree, 50-80 feet in height, 2-3.5 feet in diameter.  It has ascending branches that form a round-topped, symmetrical crown. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous, sometimes not falling until late winter.  Leaves are 5-8 inches long, 3-4 inches wide, variable in shape but mostly spatulate (shaped like a spatula), with an acute to broadly-obtuse apex.  Leaf bases are usually wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are variable: (1) entire, (2) 3-lobed at the apex, or (3) variously lobed, as is usually the case with vigorous sprouts and juvenile plants.  Leaves are dull bluish-green above, paler below.   Leaf petioles are short, stout, and flattened. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and monoecious. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an acorn, solitary or occassionally in pairs, and often short-stalked.  The nut is ovoid-shaped, light brown to nearly black, with a pubescent tip, and about 1/2 inch long. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender, glabrous, dull red at first, becoming brown.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is smooth and brown at first, becoming gray-black with rough, scaly ridges. 
 
Habitat 

The water oak is typically a bottomland species, but it may occur in permanent swamps.  It is usually associated with other hardwoods and under favorable conditions, it is the most abundant species in the stand.  It is found on the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains from Virginia to central Florida; west to eastern Texas; north along the Mississippi drainage to southern Illinois and western Kentucky. 
 
Use 

The wood of the water oak is used locally for fuel and as a last resort, for timber.  It is a favorite street and lawn tree in many southern cities. 

 

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Quercus shumardii 
Shumard oak 
 
Shumard oak, photo by Chris DemersHabit 

The Shumard oak is usually a large tree, reaching 90-125 feet in height, 4-5 feet in diameter.  Its long bole supports a broad, open crown.  The root system is extensive and moderately shallow. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous.  Leaves are 8 inches long, 4-5 inches wide, overall oval-shaped, with acute apex.  Leaf bases are wedge-shaped or flattened.  Leaf margins have 7-9 bristle-tipped lobes, often subdivided into secondary lobes by rounded sinuses.  Leaves are dark green and glabrous above, paler below with tufts of pubescence.   Leaf petioles are slender, glabrous, and about 2 inches long. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and monoecious. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an acorn, solitary or in pairs.  The nut is oblong to ovoid-shaped, and is up to 1.25 inch long. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are moderately stout, glabrous, and gray-brown.  The pith is star-shaped and homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is thick with whitish, scaly ridges separtated by deep, darker fissures. 
 
Habitat 

Shumard oak is most abundant on deep, rich, bottomland soils and along stream and swamp borders.  It usually occurs as an occassional tree in mixed hardwood forests.  It is found from eastern Pennsylvania south through Virginia and North Carolina to Georgia and Florida.  It is also found in Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and Texas. 
 
Use 

The Shumard oak is a very important timber species used for flooring, furniture, interior trim, and cabinetry.  The lumber of this wood is often mixed indiscriminantly with that of other oaks, thereby losing its identity in trade. 
 

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Quercus virginiana var. virginiana 
live oak 
 
live oak trunk and limbs, photo by Chris DemersHabit 

The live oak is a medium to large-sized tree, 40-50 feet in height, 3-4 feet in diameter.  It has a broad, buttressed base which branches close to the ground in a few massive, wide-spreading limbs, forming a broad, low, dense, round-topped crown. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and persistant, falling in the spring when the new foliage appears.  Leaves are 2-5 inches long, 1/2-2.5 inches wide, oval to elliptical-shaped, with an obtuse apex.  Leaf bases are acutely wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are entire or rarely toothed.  Leaves are dark green and glabrous above, paler and pubescent below.   Leaf petioles are stout and are 1/4 inch long. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and monoecious. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an acorn, usually on long-stalked clusters of 3-5.  The nut is ellipsoid or ovoid, brownish-black, and 1 inch long. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender and rigid, becoming gray-brown and glabrous.  moderately stout, glabrous, and gray-brown.  The pith is homogeneous. 

Bark 

The bark is dark red-brown, up to 1 inch thick, somewhat furrowed, and separating into small scales. 
 
Habitat 

The live oak grows on sandy soils along the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains.  It is found from coastal Virginia south through southern Mississippi and Louisiana; west to west-central Texas.  It is also found in Mexico and Cuba. 
 
Use 

Back in the days of sailing ships, the U.S. Navy procured large holdings of live oak forests for the tree's exclusive use in shipbuilding.  The large, massive, arching limbs were highly sought after for ship ribs and knees.  The wood was also used in the manufacture of hubs and wooden cogs.  Small quantities of the bark have been used in the tannin industry, and the oil extracted from the acorns has been used in cooking.  Today, this tree makes a very attractive shade tree in both urban and rural areas. 
 

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Quercus virginiana var. geminata 
sand live oak 
 
Habit 

The sand live oak is a small scrubby tree which grow individually or in thickets with other scrubby oaks.  In longleaf pine forests, this tree can reach the height of moderate to fairly large trees, with a form similar to the live oak (Quercus virginiana var. virginiana). 
 

Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and persistant, falling in the spring when the new foliage appears.  Leaves vary in size from one location to another, but are stiff, leathery, and are oval to elliptical-shaped, with an obtuse or slightly acute apex.  Leaf bases are acutely wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are entire and are commonly rolled downward so that the blades have the appearance of an inverted, shallow boat.  The midribs and veins are somewhat impressed.  Leaves are dark green and glabrous above, paler and gray-pubescent below.   Leaf petioles are very small and stout. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are unisexual and monoecious. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an acorn which varies in size and is ellipsoid in shape.  The nut is ellipsoid and brownish-black in color. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender and rigid, becoming gray-brown and glabrous.  moderately stout, glabrous, and gray-brown.  The pith is homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is dark red-brown, up to 1 inch thick, somewhat furrowed, and separating into small scales. 
 
Habitat 

The sand live oak grows on sites having relatively deep, infertile sands.  It is found on coastal dunes, in scrub ecosystems, in the understory of slash pine near coastal areas, in longleaf pine-scrub oak ridges and hills, and throughout much of northern Florida.  It is found along the Atlantic coast from southeastern Virginia to central Florida; west to southern Mississippi. 
 
Use 

This tree has little or no commercial value. 
 

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