Laurel Oak, a Common Tree in North America

Quercus laurifolia, a Top 100 Common Tree in North America

two laurel oak trees in mid-fall in North Carolina field (Quercus laurifolia)

Douglas Goldman / USDA / CC BY NC 4.0

There has been a long history of disagreement concerning the identity of Laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia). It centers on the variation in leaf shapes and differences in growing sites, giving some reason to name a separate species, diamond-leaf oak (Q. obtusa). Here they are treated synonymously. Laurel oak is a rapid-growing short-lived tree of the moist woods of the southeastern Coastal Plain. It has no value as lumber but makes good fuelwood. It is planted in the South as an ornamental. Large crops of acorns are important food for wildlife.

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The Silviculture of Laurel Oak

laurel oak illustration
(Alice Lounsberry/Wikimedia Commons)

Laurel oak has been widely planted in the South as an ornamental, perhaps because of the attractive leaves from which it takes its common name. Large crops of laurel oak acorns are produced regularly and are an important food for white-tailed deer, raccoons, squirrels, wild turkeys, ducks, quail, and smaller birds and rodents.

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The Images of Laurel Oak

Laurel Oak Illustration. provides several images of parts of laurel oak. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Fagales > Fagaceae > Quercus laurifolia. Laurel oak is also called Darlington oak, diamond-leaf oak, swamp laurel oak, laurel-leaf oak, water oak, and ​obtusa oak.

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The Range of Laurel Oak

distribution map of laurel oak
Distribution of laurel oak. (Elbert L. Little, Jr./U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service/Wikimedia Commons)

Laurel oak is native to the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains from southeastern Virginia to southern Florida and westward to southeastern Texas with some island populations found north of its contiguous natural range. The best formed and largest number of laurel oaks are found in north Florida and in Georgia.

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Laurel Oak at Virginia Tech

old photo of laurel oak tree next to house
Very large Quercus laurifolia, laurel oak, standing next to wood framed house with porch and chimney. 1908. (The Field Museum Library/Wikimedia Commons)

Leaf: Alternate, simple, entire margins, occasionally with shallow lobes, widest near the middle, 3 to 5 inches long, 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide, thick and persistent, shiny above, pale and smooth below.

Twig: Slender, light reddish brown, hairless, buds are sharp pointed reddish brown and clustered at twig ends.