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Quercus laurifolia in northern VA

Dave in NoVA • N. Virginia • zone 7A
2 months ago
last modified: 2 months ago

I ran over to the Community College nearby and took some pics of what I believe to be Quercus laurifolia (Swamp laurel oak / Diamond leaf oak / Laurel oak). It's a fairly impressive specimen for this far north. I know they are looked down upon in the South for their weak growth and shorter life (compared to live oak) and are sometimes referred to as 'Damn Laurel Oak'.

Among the leaf characteristics that help to distinguish it from hemisphaerica are the cuneate to attenuate bases on laurifolia leaves vs the more rounded bases on hemisphaerica leaves, as well as the occasional diamond-shape leaf on laurifolia. And laurifolia rarely has any lobing on adult leaves. Also, leaf tips on laurifolia tend to be rounded, while those of hemisphaerica can be pointed with bristle tips.

Acorns are small and look similar to those of Q. phellos, but maybe just a bit larger. The cap of the Q. hemisphaerica acorn tends to be flatter, and acorns more 'half-sphere' shape, than those of laurifolia (acorns of laurifolia are near-spherical in shape). Laurel oak is in the red oak family, so it fairly easy to distinguish from Q. virginiana.

I do not recall I've ever seen limb damage on these Laurel oaks from heavy ice or snow loads. Maybe that is because by the time we get most of our heavy snows, enough leaves have fallen so the snow or ice can't accumulate as readily.

The leaves (especially those exposed to the sun) don't look great this year due to our very dry summer. And since this is a water-loving tree, it's not looking perfect this season.

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