How to Identify Florida Oak Trees

The varieties of oak trees throughout the world are extensive. According to data from the Florida Forestry Association, there are around 19 different species of oak trees in Florida alone. Like all oak trees in the beech family, you can best identify species of Florida oaks by dividing the trees into particular groups of white and red (or black) oaks. Red and black oaks are very similar and in the case of Florida oak trees, are organized into one, single grouping to differentiate them from white oaks. Once you have determined whether your tree is a white or red Oak, consult Nancy P. Arny's guide for identifying Florida oak trees. The guide, which Arny prepared for the school of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida, gives detailed and specific variations of each of the Florida oaks.

Huge Oak Tree with bench in Palm Beach, Florida
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Oak trees in Palm Beach, FL.

Identifying an Oak Tree

FLORIDA WATER OAK
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Florida water oak tree

Step 1

Examine the leaf and acorn of the particular tree in the fall, when it is fully mature.

Live Oak
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Live oak with acorn

Step 2

Look at the way the leaves are arranged on the stem. If they line up in an alternate direction, where they're not all facing the same way, then you have identified one of the most common traits of an oak tree.

Shade of the Grand Oak
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Shady oak tree

Step 3

Follow the instructions from Sections 2 and 3 below to determine whether you are evaluating a White Oak or a Red Oak tree.

Identifying Florida White Oak Trees

Oak leaves of red
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White oak tree leaves in the autumn

Step 4

Look at the tip of the leaf. If the tip is rounded and does not contain any sharp bristles or points, you may be looking at a White Oak leaf.

Close-up of an acorn on an oak tree
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Acorn in oak tree

Step 5

Examine the tree's acorn. A White Oak acorn feels very smooth under the cap.

Step 6

Taste the leaf or acorn. The leaf and acorn of a White Oak should be sweet, especially in the fall when the leaf and acorn are mature.

Morning Oak
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Massive White Oak tree at sunset

Step 7

If the tree has all the traits of a White Oak, you have now narrowed the list of 19 possible Florida oak trees down to a manageable eight possible oaks. Consult Arny's guide for identifying Florida oak trees. You will be looking at the following species of oaks: Bluff, Chapman, Chinkapin, Live, Overcup, Post, Swamp Chestnut, and White.

Identifying a Florida Red (or Black) Oak Tree

Quercus rubra
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Red oak leaf

Step 8

Look at the tip of the leaf. If it is pointed, sharp or contains bristles, you have most likely identified a Red Oak leaf.

Oak tree
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Oak tree with acorns

Step 9

Examine the tree's acorn. Unlike the white Oak group, the red Oak group's acorn will, according to Arny, "exhibit wooly or silky inner linings in a tough outer shell."

Step 10

Taste the leaf or acorn. If the taste is bitter and unpleasant, you most likely have identified a Red Oak leaf or acorn.

Quercus palustris closeup in autumn
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Red oak tree detail in the autumn

Step 11

Consult Arny's guide for identifying Florida Oak trees. You will be looking at the following species of oaks: Black, Blackjack, Bluejack, Laurel, Myrtle, Shumard, Southern Red, Swamp Red, Turkey, Water and Willow.