Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Laurel Oak - Quercus laurifolia   Michaux
Members of Quercus with account distribution info or public map:
Google Images
Section 6 » Order Fagales » Family Fagaceae
Show/Hide Synonym
AuthorMichaux
DistributionPresent over most of the Coastal Plain, though not recorded from scattered counties. May well occur in all counties in the province. Barely ranges into the extreme southeastern Piedmont (in Anson County).

This is a Southern species ranging from eastern VA south throughout FL, and west to eastern TX. It does range out of the Coastal Plain mainly from AL to AR.
AbundanceFrequent to common in much of the Coastal Plain, but mainly where there are moderate to large blackwater creeks and rivers. Least numerous in areas of brownwater river floodplains or areas lacking flowing blackwater streams. Casual in the Piedmont.
HabitatThis is a species of swamps and bottomlands, primarily in blackwater situations, which are much more widespread in the Coastal Plain than are brownwater floodplains (mainly Roanoke, Tar, Neuse, and Cape Fear). It can grow on slight forested levees in floodplains, as well as at times in non-flowing floodplain pools. Only occasionally does it occur in maritime forests, and then essentially only in the swampy or lower and moist slopes within them. The very similar Darlington Oak (Q. hemisphaerica), which has often been included within Laurel Oak, grows essentially on upland soils of maritime forests and sandy flats.
See also Habitat Account for Coastal Plain Wet Hardwood Forests
PhenologyFlowers in March and April (about two weeks earlier than does Darlington Oak), and fruits from September to November of the second year.
IdentificationThis is a familiar species along many of our blackwater rivers, where easily seen from canoes, for example. It is a medium to large semi-evergreen tree, often growing to 80-90’ tall, at times taller. It has entire leaves that are wider and more diamond-shaped (rhombic) than other oaks with entire leaves, in general being wider above the middle (oblanceolate or obovate) and with a rounded tip (though with a small bristle tip). The dark green leaves remain on the trees well into winter, but usually drop before new leaves emerge. The very similar Darlington Oak has narrower leaves, often narrowly elliptic, usually well under 1” wide, has an acute leaf apex, and has entirely glabrous leaves below; whereas Laurel Oak leaves average over 1” wide, has a rounded leaf apex, and has small tufts of hairs in some vein axils below. Darlington Oak leaves may frequently have a few shallow lobes near the tip, whereas Laurel Oak shows less such lobing. They usually also separate by habitat, as mentioned above. Willow Oak (Q. phellos) has entirely deciduous leaves, turning brown in fall and soon dropping; its leaves are always quite narrowly elliptic to lanceolate, well under 1” wide, have distinctly acute leaf tips, and never show any lobing on the leaves. Both occur in wetlands, with Willow Oak favoring brownwater floodplains and rich soil, but they can grow in similar sites.
Taxonomic CommentsFor most of the last century, this species included the taxon known as Q. hemisphaerica, either as a variety or simply subsumed within Q. laurifolia. Most recent references are in agreement that the former is a good species.

Other Common Name(s)Swamp Laurel Oak, Diamond-leaf Oak
State RankS4? [S4S5]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
Select a source
AllHerbaria
Individual
Website
Select an occurrence type
AllCollection_naturalSight_natural