Laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), also called diamond oak, is native to the southeastern United States. The tree grows rapidly and usually matures in about 50 years.
It is a medium-sized tree with a large circular crown. It grows 65 to 80 feet in height, and rarely to 130 feet.
The bark is dark gray to black and not as furrowed as the bark of live oak (Quercus virginiana).
Laurel oak has simple, alternate, elongate leaves that are 1.25 to 4 inches long and .5 to 1.5 inches wide. As shown in these photographs, leaf shapes vary and some leaves are more leathery than others. The margin is entire and often undulating. Sometimes leaves have a few shallow lobes.
As shown below in the photograph on the left, a leaf is shiny and dark green on its top surface. As shown below in the photograph on the right, a leaf is lighter green on its bottom surface.
Leaves begin falling in the fall and are replaced by new leaves in the spring. Laurel oak is considered to be deciduous to semi-evergreen.
Acorns are nearly round and about 1/2 inch long. The nut is covered 1/3 to 1/2 by the cap. Acorns are born singly or paired on very short stems.
Although acorns have a bitter taste, they are eaten by deer, squirrels and birds. The production of acorns by a single tree is often heavy, which enhances its value for wildlife. In addition to providing food, laurel oaks provide nesting locations for birds and squirrels.
The tree is grown and marketed as pulpwood and as an ornamental tree used in landscaping.
During Hurricane Wilma in 2005, one of the largest laurel oaks along the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center's Hammock Trail was destroyed. This loss of canopy opened up the hammock for other vegetation to become established. The stump of this tree is still present near the end of the hammock trail.
© Photographs and text by Susan Leach Snyder (Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer).
Please report errors to Susan Snyder @ firstname.lastname@example.org