Laurel Oak

Frequently found in low woods, in swampy locations, or alongs rivers and streams, Quercus laurifolia is native to the Piedmont and Coastal Plains regions of the United States. Commonly referred to as the Laurel Oak, these trees can reach both a height and spread of forty to sixty feet. They grow best in well-drained, acidic, humus-rich soils that are classified as a medium to wet soil. Laurel Oaks also do best in full sun and in zones 7-9. Quercus laurifolia adaptability allows it to survive even poorly drained, wet clay soils.

As you walk behind the Benjamin Building and into Tawes Plaza be on the lookout for Quercus laurifolia characterized by their narrow, alternate, oblong to elliptic leaves that are smooth margined and leathery and appear a dark, glossy green color on top and a paler green on the leaves’ undersides. The bark of older trees develop shallow fissures that have rough, flat edges. Quercus laurifolia produces round, striated dark brown acorns ½ to ⅔ inches in length with shallow, red-brown scaled caps. Laurel Oaks bloom in March and April and are monecious; the long male catkins are yellow-green in color while the females appear amongst the leaves as small, green-red spikes in leaf axils.

Young Laurel Oaks produce sprouts, commonly called suckers, from the stump base when the the young tree has been cut or burned. This is a form of vegetative reproduction, although older trees are not as vigorous in sprout production. Acorns exhibit a mild embryo dormancy and germinate in the spring following their fall ripening. Cold stratification is required for seed germination.

Quercus laurifolia makes an excellent shade tree and also provides winter interest, especially in warm coastal climates where they behave more like an evergreen than a deciduous tree. Laurel oaks are considered a low to medium maintenance tree. They are susceptible to a number of diseases including anthracnose, cankers, oak leaf blister, chestnut blight, oak wilt, shoestring root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf spots. Several pests of Laurel oaks include scale, leaf miners, oak skeletonizers, oak lace bugs, caterpillars, borers, galls, and nut weevils.


Written by Lydia Printz


The Missouri Botanical Garden and Virginia Dendrology were consulting from these web addressed to construct this article: