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Florida Native Trees & Shrubs

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Descriptions and photographs of the leaves, flowers & fruit of native Florida trees & shrubs. Over 300 species of trees, or about half of all the trees in the entire continental U.S. grow in Florida's woodlands and various habitats.

On this page - Slash pine, Sand pine, Turkey oak, Myrtle oak, Laural oak, Live oak, Dwarf live oak, Sand live oak

Tree or Shrub or Herb?

A tree is generally described as a single stemmed woody plant with a distinct canopy or crown & a height of 15 feet or more.

A shrub is also woody stemmed, usually with multiple stems or trunks which rarely or never exceed 13 to 15 feet. In some cases a plant may grow either as a small tree or large shrub.

Slash Pine, Yellow Pine - Pinus elliottii

Slash Pine tree. Slash pine detail

Habitat - Moist to dry Flatwoods, Sandhill

Description - Slash pine is a large native tree that can attain 75 - 100 feet in height with a 3 to 4 ft. diameter trunk. Cones are 3 - 6 inches in length and to 3 inches in diameter. Needles 8 -12 inches long, 2 or 3 per fascicle (bundle). Crown is open, irregular, oval to pyramidal with ascending branches. Slash pine grows in well drained to moist sandy acidic soils and will tolerate moderate seasonal flooding once established. Scaly bark is grey with large orange-brown plates. Seeds from cones are a favorite of squirrels and wild turkey. Slash pine can live around 200 years, the thick bark protecting it from all but the most severe wildfires.

Sand Pine - Pinus clausa

Sand Pine treeCones of the Sand Pine tree

Family - Pinaceae

Habitat - Sandy ridges, open upland forests on deep, well drained, white sandy acidic soils.

Description - This Florida native may grow to 80 feet although it is more common at 25 to 30 feet. The open crown of a mature tree may be rounded or flattened, the bark is smooth and gray when young, becoming thick, scaly and reddish-brown with age. Cones are closed, 1 - 3 inches in length and unlike other pines may persist on the tree for years.

Two geographic varieties are generally recognized, Pinus clausa var. clausa (Ocala variety) normally occurs from northeastern to southern Florida and produces serotinous cones which can remain closed for years opening only after a fire, occasionally very high summertemperatures on the surface of the sand on which the cones fall will open them.

P. clausa var. immuginata (Choctawhatchee variety) ranges from northwestern Florida into southeastern Alabama has non-serotinous cones.

Turkey oak - Quercus laevis

Turkey Oak (Quercus laevis) Leaf detailLeaf detail

Family - Fagaceae (Beech Family)

Habitat - Dry Pinelands, Sandy ridges, Oak/Pine woodlands

Description - Native tree to a height of 20-50 feet, relatively short lived, fast growing tree. Turkey oak acorns require two years to mature and are an important wildlife food source browsed by deer, bear and turkey. Leaves have 3 to 7 deep lobes, resembling the shape of a turkeys foot for which this tree was given its common name.

Myrtle Oak - Quercus myrtifolia

Myrtle oak leaf. Myrtle oak

Family - Fagaceae

Habitat - Scrub, Coastal Hammocks & Dunes, on deep sandy soils

Description - Evergreen tree to near 40 feet in height more often as a shrub, commonly grows in tangled thickets with contorted trunks. Leaves are 1 - 2 inches long, alternately arranged, with a smooth leathery upper surface and yellowish to rust colored underside, margins of leaves are usually turned under.

Live oak - Quercus virginiana

Placeholder image Placeholder image live oak

Family - Fagaceae

Habitat - Coastal hammocks, Maritime Forests, Inland Hammocks, Hardwood Swamps on sandy, moist soils.

Description - Broad crown with a stout trunk to more than 4 feet in diameter and very large, low, spreading branches. Live ak can grow to 80 feet tall with an equal or greater spread.

Leaves are alternate, are elliptic to obovate in shape with slightly wavy, entire margins, leathery, dark green & shiny on upper surface, pale green and pubescent on bottom surface.

Live oak was once an important source of strong wood for ship builders that would search out and harvest trees with branches shaped as needed for a ships ribs and timbers. The Live oaks acorns are an important food source for many animals and birds and the tree itself provides habitat and nesting sites for the Florida scrub jay.

Laurel Oak - Quercus laurifolia

Laural oakleaves laural oak

Family - Fagaceae

Habitat - Wet to dry sites, swamps, bottomlands, river floodplains, wet flatwoods.

Description - Native Florida tree to 60 plus feet in height, with a dense, symmetrical oval to rounded crown & a trunk up to 4 feet in diameter. Leaves are 2 -4 inches long, alternate, simple, smooth, entire or parted, varied form; elliptic, oblanceolate, obovate, some with a distinct diamond shape. Spring flowers are an inconspicuous brown catkin. An attractive fast growing tree widely used in both commercial & residential landscapes.

Sand Live Oak - Quercus geminata

sand live oak

Family - Fagaceae

Habitat - Scrub, Coastal Hammocks & Dunes, Sandhills

Description - Growth habit may be as a large shrub to a medium sized tree, usually with contorted, twisted trunks. Open canopy, somewhat sparsely branched. Leaves are alternate, thick and leathery with rolled under, entire margins.

Dwarf Live Oak - Quercus minima

Dwarf ive oak shrub Placeholder image chapmans oak

Family - Fagaceae

Habitat - Pinelands, Scrubby flatwoods, Wet flatwoods, Sandhill

Description - Native low growing shrub, sub-shrub, rarely exceeding 3 feet, common at 16-18 inches or less.

Leaves alternate, simple, evergreen, leathery, variable size and shape, 1 to 4 inches long, shiny green above, lower surface (usually) pubescent.

Flower - Early spring, Male- Yellow-green catkins 2-3 inches long, Female - small, inconspicuous in leaf axils.