Month: August 2022

How to Identify Florida Oak Trees Around Tallahassee

 

mature southern live oak

Southern Live Oak

 

There are around 600 oak varieties in the world, 90 of which are native to the United States. Considering oak trees have a wide variety of leaf shapes – sometimes on the same tree – it’s no wonder people get confused between laurel and live oaks. We have put together an article with some of the popular oaks in our area so you can identify the trees by their leaves and acorns. The accompanying notes will also help you identify potential issues and decide on new varieties for your landscape.

Southern Live Oak

For all of the southern live oak’s spreading glory, it has one of the plainer leaves and smaller acorns on our list. It is also one of the more evergreen, with new leaves emerging as old ones are being dropped. When thinking about how to identify Florida oak trees, a mature southern live oak is the easiest with its widespread growth habit and unpredictable limb structure. It is also one of the most desirable trees for the strength of its limbs and long life.

Mature size: 50’ tall x 150’ wide   Average life span: 500+ years
Annual growth: 24-36”   Considered a stable and desirable tree.

southern live oak

Water Oak

A fast-growing, short-lived tree that can reach up to 70 feet, water oaks are used for short-term shade solutions. If you have one of these in your yard you already know that it is considered a weak tree, dropping branches on a regular basis. Any trimming of a water oak near a house needs to be done by a professional – improper cuts may lead to rot within the tree. Water oaks can be big acorn producers, a redeeming quality for those looking to attract wildlife.

Mature size: 70’ tall x 60’ wide   Average life span: 30-50 years
Annual growth: 24”   A good tree for wildlife but unstable and short-lived in landscapes.

water oak

Shumard Oak

Often found in parking lots and commercial landscaping, Shumard oaks are tolerant of a wide range of soils and conditions. These trees can grow to over 80 feet, sporting classic oak-shaped leaves up to 8 inches long and 6 inches wide. Considered a moderately fast-growing deciduous tree, it provides shade in the summer and allows sun in the winter.

Mature size: 80’ tall x 70’ wide   Average life span: 100-200 years
Annual growth: 24”   A large tree well suited for a variety of locations.

Shumard Oak

Pin Oak

How to identify Florida oak trees when the leaves look similar? That is a question that comes up occasionally between the Shumard and pin oak leaves. Think of the pin oak leaves as coming to a “point” (or two) at the end and Shumard’s as being “showy.” You are also more likely to find the pin oak trees gathered near low-lying areas, tolerating wet feet during dormant months. The trees themselves can vary in height, considered medium to large trees depending on location and soil conditions.

Mature size: 50’ – 120’ tall  Average life span: 120 years
Annual growth: 24”   Popular as an ornamental tree and low spots in landscaping.

Pin oak

 

Laurel Oak

Another fast-growing, short-lived tree that can reach up to 100 feet, laurel oaks are considered evergreen, offering year-round shade. New leaves emerge while previous leaves are just beginning to drop, keeping the tree looking green year round. It is considered an ornamental tree that likes sandy soil. The leaves are small – 2”-4” in length and are smooth, requiring raking when old leaves drop to avoid slipping and falls.

Mature size: 80’ tall x 60’ wide   Average life span: 50-70 years
Annual growth: 24-36”   A fast maturing tree best planted as an ornamental.

laurel oak

Southern Red Oak

Southern red oak has leaves that vary from rounded edges to points, turning red and falling in colder temperatures. This tree prefers dry, sandy uplands with a range from New Jersey to Florida, extending west to Oklahoma and Texas. Acorns produced from trees in the red oak family tend to be more bitter than white oak varieties due to more tannins. Southern red oaks can grow quite large with lumber used for construction and furniture.

Mature size: 60’ – 90’ tall  Average life span: 150 years
Annual growth: 12”-36”  Deciduous tree with medium life span for dry, sandy soils.

southern red oak

Swamp Chestnut Oak

Also known as a cow oak, the acorns are sweet enough to eat raw without boiling. They are favorites of cows and other wildlife, making the swamp chestnut oak popular for those involved with habitat restoration. The leaves are not a classic oak shape – rather they are more oval with the widest part past the middle and an underside of thick fuzz.

Mature size: 50’ tall x 40’ wide   Average life span: 100+ years
Annual growth: 12”-24”   An excellent tree for wildlife with large, tasty acorns.

swamp chestnut oak

Willow Oak

Named for its leaf resembling that of a willow tree, most willow oaks can also be found near streambeds and rivers. Unlike its namesake, the branches are horizontal, and the overall tree shape is pyramidal. Willow oaks are easily transplanted because of their shallow root system. The oak’s acorns are also an important food source for wildlife.

Mature size: 40’ tall x 60’ wide   Average life span: 100 years
Annual growth: 13” – 24”   A more delicate branching system with good forage for wildlife.

willow oak leaf and acorn
At Miller’s Tree Service we understand people becoming attached to a tree that has been on their family property through generations or one recently planted with hopes for the future. If you have concerns about one of your special trees, call us sooner rather than later so we can help keep your trees healthy, or remove a problem tree so others can thrive. We will literally go out on a limb for you! Call 850.894.8733.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Reference for Top 5 Palm Trees in Zone 8

Living in Tallahassee, we have chilly winter days and long, humid summers. With those winter freeze warnings comes the USDA designation of Zone 8 for plants, meaning palm trees that thrive in Miami’s Zone 10 will not survive our cold snaps. We have put together a handy guide showing five palm trees that thrive in and around the Tallahassee area. There are additional varieties available, especially if you are looking for indoor plant options. But these five are solid choices for enhancing your existing landscaping or serve as inspiration for a new focal point. Read the accompanying blog here.

Click here for your printable PDF of the Best Palm Trees for North Florida: 

 

A Tallahassee Guide to the Best Palm Trees for North Florida

Palm trees come in all shapes and sizes, but not all are meant for our Tallahassee weather. Luckily, some of the most beautiful palm trees for North Florida offer a wide variety of choices in frond shape, height and silhouette. Whether you chose the shorter Pindo or taller Sabal palm, be aware that palms are different from trees with their own best practices for care.

What is in a Zone and Why it Matters

Pick up any plant label and you see a hardiness zone number. The U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the United States into zones ranging from 1-13 with Zone 1 being the coldest and Zone 13 the warmest. If a palm has a temperature range of Miami’s Zone 11, planting it in Tallahassee’s Zone 8 means it will likely not survive our colder winter temperatures. The following palms are hardy for Tallahassee, ready to enhance your existing landscape or inspire a new design.

 

European Fan Palm

European Fan Palms grow to a hiegy of ten feet tall with finely defined frond. They look good left full or trimmed up to look like a tree.

European Fan Palm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are looking for a smaller option that will be as wide as it is tall, the European fan palm is a fitting solution. Considered a slow-growing, clumping palm, the fronds are held out on a shorter stem, spreading outward in thin fingers. The color may range from a light green to silver, making it an excellent focal point or filler solution. The average size is 10 feet tall by 8 feet wide with an average cold tolerance is Zone 8.

The European fan palm can be grown with multiple plants close to each other, forming a mound of fronds. It can also have the fronts trimmed from the ground up, creating the look of a small palm tree. Because of the smaller size (at least compared to other palms) most landscape designers would suggest planting two or three trimmed trees close together to create a focal point.

 

Pindo Palm

Pindo Palm

 

On the list of best palm trees for North Florida, the Pindo palm is one of the most popular. With an average height of 15 feet or more, the Pindo has large, graceful fronds that arch out and away from the tree. Colors for Pindo fronds range from green to a beautiful blue-grey. Rated for Zone 8, this beautifully fronded palm is perfect for Tallahassee landscapes

You may hear “Jelly Palm” when people are discussing potential landscape additions. The Pindo is well known for the fruit it produces that can be made into jelly by industrious canners. Some Pindo owners see the yearly fruit as a bonus – and others prefer to remove the fruit before it ripens. Though the fruit is not considered harmful to dogs, it may give your family pet an upset stomach, so it’s better to avoid indulging their Pindo fruit cravings.

 

Windmill Palm

Windmill Palm

 

One of the most cold-hardy on our list of palm trees for North Florida, the windmill palm is rated for Zone 7. Able to tolerate temperatures down to the single digits, the fronds are also strong enough to handle snow accumulation. Though snow is not something we worry about in Tallahassee, it is nice to know your windmill palm will be just fine through the frost warnings.

Windmill palms have a trunk covered in a loose mat of coarse fiber, topped by distinctive fronds that grow upward and outward. The fronds are wide, made up of narrow seams with a little give at the ends. As a slow grower with a top height of around 20 feet, you may see the dark green to yellow-green frond tops when the windmill is small, later on enjoying the silvery tones on the underside as the tree matures.

 

Sabal Palm

Sabal Palm

 

Of course we are going to have the state tree of Florida on our list! Also known as the cabbage palm, the sabal is one of the few palms that have a high tolerance for cold (Zone 7), salt and drought once established. As a slow grower, it can take years for it to reach an average height of 40 feet, with trees in the wild growing taller.

Sabal palms are native to Florida and have long been a staple in urban and suburban settings. Usually grown upright, the trunk can also be trained to bend, running above the ground before turning upward. The fronds are a darker green, forming a dense canopy at the top of the tree. The “boot” or base part of the frond may be left behind when a frond dies and falls from the tree. Some sable palms will have boots halfway down the trunk, while others will be boot free.

 

Mexican Fan Palm

Mexican Fan Palm

 

Known for being fast-growing and drought-tolerant, the Mexican fan palm is the tallest palm on our list of best palm trees for North Florida. With average heights spanning between 70-100 feet, these trees are often seen planted along highways and adjacent to tall buildings. For homeowners, the Mexican fan palm, also known as a Washingtonia, looks great in open lawns and is rated for our area as Zone 8.

The Mexican fan palm trunk starts out a reddish brown, eventually turning gray as it matures. Medium green fronds are wide, with lower fronds growing outward from the trunk and newer, higher fronds growing upward. Mexican fan palms are considered to be long living with robust canopies from 10 to 100 feet.

 

Do’s and Don’ts of Palm Care

One of the most important things to remember about palm trees is that they have no bark to protect their trunks like oaks or pines. You want to make every effort to avoid damage during moving, pruning, fertilizing or mowing.

  • Do make sure your palm has the correct amount of sunlight. Light requirements vary with too little sun leading to weak and spindly growth, and too much sun scalding the leaves and threatening the palm.
  • Do fertilize your palms during the warm months, staying away from the trunk where the roots may be burned. Be sure to use the correct mix of nutrients in the correct amounts.
  • Don’t cause root damage. Palm roots tend to grow laterally, so be careful with any digging near your palms. Palm roots are fragile so remember that when you are planting, handle with care and never expose the roots directly to fertilizer.
  • Don’t The best way to avoid overwatering your new palm is to ensure good drainage. You can add sand to the soil in up to a 50% ratio. New palms should be watered every day for the first week. That’s why you do not want water hanging around in heavy clay, rotting new roots.
  • Do prune away dead fronds if your palm is close to a dwelling. Some pests like to make their homes in the “hula skirt” made by a collection of dead fronds laying against the trunk. On the other hand, butterflies and birds also benefit from the same habitat, so it is up to the individual homeowner how to handle the hula.

At Miller’s Tree Service, we understand the varying needs of palms growing in North Florida. It can tricky to prune palms without damaging the trunks – you will never see our crews climbing a palm tree with spikes unless we are there for removal. For trimming fronds on taller palms we use our bucket trucks, lifting our professional trim crew to the proper location along the palm trunk.

If you have questions about the different varieties of palms that will work in your yard, give us a call and one of our arborists will come out for a free consultation. We love talking about the health of your existing trees and any plans for new ones, too. Call us for the emergency of a downed tree or schedule pruning and fertilization anytime at 850.894.TREE (8733).

Download your handy palm tree guide here. Take it with you when shopping for a palm, make notes on the back!