Height: To 60 feet, occasionally taller
Evergreen/Deciduous: Deciduous to semi-evergreen
Lifespan: Short-lived; 50 to 70 years
Fall Foliage: Yellow in deciduous trees
Range: The southeastern coastal plain, extending in places to the piedmont
Typical Habitat: Non-flooded, but damp areas
The Swamp Laurel Oak: Live Fast and Look Good
The swamp laurel oak shares a lot of similarities with other oaks of damp areas: It grows quickly but lives a fairly short length of time. However, because of this rapid growth rate and its attractive growth habit, it’s often prized by landowners. It’s widely planted as an ornamental or shade tree, and its also used in riparian habitats to help slow erosion.
And because this tree not only grows quickly but also matures quickly, it is an important food source for wildlife. It is often capable of producing acorns well before its 20th birthday.
Identification: Tips & Tricks
This is yet another oak that can be nearly impossible to identify based on the foliage alone. It is easy to confuse with the willow oak (Quercus phellos), water oak (Quercus nigra), and laurel oak (Quercus hemisphaerica). In fact, it has been suggested that the swamp laurel oak is a naturally occurring hybrid between the willow and water oak.
The Swamp Laurel Oak: Additional Information
If these interesting oaks have sparked your curiosity, be sure to check out these resources to learn more:
- North Carolina State Extension Service: A easy-to-digest overview, along with an assortment of photographs.
- U.S. Forest Service: A well-rounded overview of the species, including a range map.
- University of Florida, IFAS Extension: Though primarily geared at homeowners who’re deciding between swamp laurel oaks and laurel oaks, this guide is also helpful for nature lovers, who’re trying to identify either species.