Quercus virginiana: Southern Live Oak Cloaked in Ferns

Live Oak covered in ferns

We don’t have live oaks (Quercus virginiana, Southern live oak) in Lancashire, more’s the pity, as they are spectacular trees. Live oaks are named for their (almost) evergreen foliage which looks more like a small, magnolia leaf than an English oak leaf, but they might just as well have been named for the amount of life they home.

Even a relatively young tree looks venerable. Quick to grow above a deep tap root, live oaks amicably bear ferns and other epiphytes in outlandishly long and horizontal branches.

Live Oak with epiphytes in Jackson, MS
Live Oak with epiphytes in Jackson, MS

To those who tolerate anthropomorphism, I’ll whisper that the live oak’s luxuriant lushness looks like many outstretched arms are wearing a single, furry, green coat that alters itself to fit as the tree grows.

Gardeners who have tried and failed to establish grass under the shade of trees might note the monkey grass that works so well here.

Shared as part of TreeSquare

31 Replies to “Quercus virginiana: Southern Live Oak Cloaked in Ferns”

  1. Those appear to be Resurrection ferns, which are thick on our oaks just now thanks to weeks of wet conditions. In dry conditions, they shrivel into little “wheels,” and wait for the rain to unfurl them and produce the effect you’ve shown here.

    1. It does have an otherworldly look. We’d be amazed to know of the life stories that go on every day in a tree like this one.

    1. As it is almost evergreen, it probably looks much the same! The ferns however are a type that almost completely dry out in a drought then green up again when the rain returns.

  2. Those are ferns? Wow. There were trees called Live Oaks in CA where I lived, but none looked like this! How spectacular!

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