Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Sand Live Oak - Quercus geminata   Small
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Section 6 » Order Fagales » Family Fagaceae
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DistributionMainly coastal, from Currituck County southward, ranging inland only a few dozen miles to Bladen County. Likely occurs in all coastal counties, though specimens form several counties are apparently misidentified, owing to its close resemblance to Live Oak (Quercus virginiana).

A Southeastern coastal species, ranging north to coastal NC, south to southern FL, and west to eastern LA. It does occur throughout FL and inland perhaps 100 miles into SC, GA, and AL.
AbundanceLocally common to very common, but restricted in habitat, and thus generally uncommon to fairly common over its range in the state. Can be a dominant tree in some places over deep sands.
HabitatThis is a species of deep sands, and thus it occurs in xeric habitats where most other tree species are scarce. It occurs in Coastal Fringe Sandhill and Sand Barren habitats close to the coast, as well as farther inland along the rims of Carolina bays and on a few fluvial ridges on the eastern or northeastern sides of several rivers. It may often grow with the similar but larger Live Oak, with which it was usually lumped in the past; that species is the primary one of these two in maritime forests and thickets.
See also Habitat Account for Live Oak Forests and Maritime Scrub Thickets
PhenologyFlowers in April, and fruits from September to November of the same year. Weakley (2018) notes that it flowers 2-3 weeks later than does Live Oak, when growing together.
IdentificationThis is an easily overlooked evergreen tree, mostly of deep sands and coastal regions, that many biologists would pass over as Q. virginiana. However, Q. geminata is a small to occasionally medium tree, growing only to perhaps 40-50 feet tall at best; it may form thickets. The main separation feature (from Q. virginiana) is its leaves; both have thick, leathery, elliptical leaves with essentially no lobes. However, Sand Live Oak leaves are quite revolute on the margins, curled under so much that some of the underside is hidden from view; they can be somewhat “canoe-like” when turned upside down. The leaves also have veins that are more deeply entrenched above, so that from below the surface is “dented” by the veins. There are a few other differences, mainly in the acorn. Once you study up on this species, and are prepared to look for it on deeper sands and sunnier areas near the coast, it will not be difficult to find in some areas, such as Carolina Beach State Park.
Taxonomic CommentsThis taxon was usually included within Q. virginiana for most of the 20th Century, such as in RAB (1968), sometimes as a variety and sometimes not. However, nearly all recent references do consider this a valid species.

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS3
Global RankG5
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