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SPECIES: Quercus laevis



Carey, Jennifer H. 1992. Quercus laevis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].




Quercus catesbaei Michx.




turkey oak
Catesby oak
scrub oak


The currently accepted scientific name of turkey oak is Quercus laevis Walt. [11,15]. It has been placed within the black oak subgenus Erythrobalanus [25]. There are no recognized varieties, subspecies, or forms. Turkey oak hybridizes with southern red oak (Q. falcata), bluejack oak (Q. incana), laurel oak (Q. laurifolia), and water oak (Q. nigra) [11,15].




No special status


No entry


SPECIES: Quercus laevis

Turkey oak occurs in the Southeastern Coastal Plain from southeast Virginia to central Florida and west to southeast Louisiana [11,15].


FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak-pine
FRES15 Oak-hickory




No entry


K112 Southern mixed forest
K116 Subtropical pine forest


69 Sand pine
71 Longleaf pine-scrub oak
72 Southern scrub oak
111 South Florida slash pine


810 Longleaf pine-turkey oak hills


Turkey oak grows in pure stands, in isolated pockets, and as a subcanopy within longleaf pine forests. The two most common overstory associates in turkey oak forests are sand post oak (Quercus stellata var. margaretta) and bluejack oak (Q. marilandica). Other associated overstory species include southern red oak (Q. rubra), laurel oak (Q. laurifolia), sand hickory (Carya pallida), mockernut hickory (C. tomentosa), and black cherry (Prunus serotina) [11]. Also see SAF cover types.

Understory associates include myrtle oak (Q. myrtifolia), Chapman oak (Q. chapmanii), sand live oak (Q. virginiana var. geminata), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), pawpaw (Asimina spp.), Vaccinium spp., New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus), gopher-apple (Geobalanus oblongifolius), blackberry (Rubus spp.), crooked wood (Lyonia spp.), scrub hickory (Carya floridana), poison-sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) [11].

Groundcover includes pineland threeawn or wiregrass (Aristida stricta), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), Heterotheca spp., and legumes [11].

Because turkey oak is drought resistant, it becomes dominant 
on the driest, most infertile sandhill sites.  Published 
classifications listing turkey oak as dominant in community 
types (cts) are presented below:

Area     Classification       Authority

se US    general veg. cts     Christensen 1988 [4]
nc FL    general forest cts   Monk 1968 [20]
SC       veg. cts             Nelson 1986 [24]
se US    general forest cts   Waggoner 1975 [35]


SPECIES: Quercus laevis

Turkey oak is too small on average to be commercially important, but its hard wood is excellent fuel [11].


Because of their palatability, digestibility, and seasonal abundance, acorns of turkey oak are a major food source for mammals and birds, including black bear, white-tailed deer, fox squirrel, scrub jay, northern bobwhite, and wild turkey [11,16,32]. Besides acorns, mature turkey oak stands have little to offer in way of forage because undergrowth is sparse [21]. Turkey oak acorns are not as important to wildlife if associated evergreen scrub oaks such as sand live oak (Q. virginiana var. germinata), myrtle oak (Q. myrtifolia), and Chapman oak (Q. chapmanii) are present [13].


Acorns of most oak species are palatable. Acorns of trees in the black oak subgenus, such as turkey oak, are usually bitter and less palatable than those of the white acorn subgenus [32].


Oak acorns are generally low in protein, phosphorus, nitrogen, and fiber but high in crude fat. Because acorns in the black oak subgenus have more crude fat, they provide more digestible energy than those in the white oak subgenus [32].


Turkey oak provides cover and shelter for wildlife. Fox squirrels nest in turkey oak and use the leaves for nests [16]. Scrub jays, however, prefer the associated evergreen scrub oaks over turkey oak for nesting [38]. Turkey oak-dominated sandhills are good habitat for numerous reptiles and amphibians [18].


No entry


Turkey oak bark and twigs contain substances used for tanning leather [11].


To establish pine on sandhill sites, turkey oak should be removed because it competes with young pine for moisture and nutrients [11,31,37]. The undercutter method (in which the oak stems are severed beneath the ground surface) is the most effective eradication method. However, partial eradication by furrowing does not disturb the soil as much as undercutting. Basal and stump sprays, using 2,4,5-T, also control turkey oak [31]. The best time to eradicate turkey oak is late April to early May because carbohydrate root reserves are lowest when new leaves reach their full size [37]. Turkey oak removed by mechanical chopping on a Florida sandhill site did not recover for at least 4 years [9].

The removal of turkey oak to plant pine results in a pronounced reduction in food for wildlife. If the goal is to reproduce a longleaf pine community for wildlife habitat as well as timber production, some turkey oak should be left. If the best acorn producers are left in the stand, a well-stocked, mature stand of turkey oak can be thinned by 50 percent without affecting acorn production [11,21].

In north-central South Carolina, turkey oak is susceptible to oak wilt (Ceratocystis fagacearum), and in central Florida, curculionid weevils (Curculio spp.) attack turkey oak acorns [11].


SPECIES: Quercus laevis

Turkey oak is a small- to medium-sized, moderately fast-growing, short-lived, deciduous tree. The much-dissected leaves are variable in size and shape, and have a phototropic vertical orientation to reduce moisture loss. Turkey oak develops an extensive lateral root system with age. Turkey oak at maturity ranges from 20 to 50 feet (6-15 m) in height but can be larger on good sites [11]. The largest turkey oak in Florida is 82 feet (25 m) tall and 26 inches (66 cm) in d.b.h. If disturbed, turkey oak can be small, stunted, and gnarled [22]. The relatively thick, blackish bark has deep furrows and rough blocky ridges [5]. The fruit, a medium-sized nut, averages 0.3 cubic inch (4.8 cu cm) in volume [2].




Seed production and dissemination: Turkey oak is monoecious. Acorns are produced every year. Average annual acorn production for open-grown trees 5 inches (13 cm) in d.b.h. and larger is 0.4 to 1.2 pounds (0.18-0.54 kg) per tree. The heavy acorns fall in autumn and do not roll far from their source. Small mammals do not disperse acorns far, and most of these acorns are eaten [11]. Scrub jays, and possibly other birds, disperse acorns [10].

Germination and seedling establishment: Germination capacity is high, but the moisture content of the acorns must not drop below 20 to 30 percent for germination to occur [25]. Litter protects the acorn from extreme temperatures. Turkey oak acorns require a 60 to 90 day cold stratification period. Hypogeal germination occurs very early in the spring. Consequently, seedlings become well established before the hot weather commences [11].

Although roots are generally deep and extensive, a thick mat of fibrous turkey oak roots were concentrated in the top 4 to 5 inches (10-13 cm) of soil in a xeric Florida sandhill [1].

Vegetative reproduction: Turkey oak sprouts vigorously from the root crown when top-killed [11].


Turkey oak grows on xeric sandhills up to 500 feet (150 m) in elevation [5]. The droughty sands are classified as typic Quartzipsamments of the Entisol soil order. These soils are strongly acidic, excessively to well drained, and low in organic matter [11,22]. In Florida, turkey oak is common on the sandy uplands, and in Georgia and the Carolinas, it is common near the coast [12]. Turkey oak is intolerant of salt spray; the first inland appearance of turkey oak is just beyond the maritime forest [26].


Turkey oak is shade intolerant [11]. It has become dominant in former longleaf pine sites which were logged. On xeric sandhill sites, turkey oak will replace longleaf pine in the absence of frequent fire [11,22], and it will replace evergreen scrub forests if they are burned [7].

The turkey oak sandhill community is a stable fire-maintained disclimax [7,17]. In the absence of fire, turkey oak matures, the canopy closes, and shade tolerant species become established. Evergreen scrub oak or southern mixed hardwood forests will replace turkey oak forests [19]. If fire is too frequent, young turkey oak will be suppressed and replaced by longleaf pine and wiregrass [7].


Flowers appear in April. The fruit takes 2 years to mature and falls in autumn. Germination takes place in very early spring [11].


SPECIES: Quercus laevis

Large, mature turkey oaks have relatively thick bark and can survive low-severity fire. If top-killed, turkey oak sprouts vigorously from the root collar. Historically, natural fire occurred at 3- to 4-year intervals in sandhill vegetation [28]. Frequent low-severity fire keeps turkey oaks small, stunted, and widely scattered [23].

Fire influences the spatial pattern of turkey oak. Repeated fires result in segregation between longleaf pine and turkey oak [28]. Fire fueled by longleaf pine litter is hotter than fire fueled by turkey oak litter [36]. In addition, fallen pine needles lodge in the foliage of subcanopy turkey oak. Turkey oak stands growing with longleaf pine, where fires are frequent and carry well, are often young and even-aged. Turkey oak stands isolated from pines, where fires are less frequent, are uneven-aged [28].

Turkey oak is protected from fire near groves of sand live oak, which act as natural fire breaks. The litter of sand live oak is moist and incombustible, and the dense grove inhibits wiregrass growth [28].

FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".


Tree with adventitious bud/root crown/soboliferous species root sucker


SPECIES: Quercus laevis

Small turkey oaks are top-killed by low-severity fire [28]. Turkey oak is more likely to suffer crown mortality in the vicinity of a longleaf pine. In two late spring fires in Florida, turkey oak crown survival was positively related to the d.b.h. of the turkey oak and to the distance from the nearest longleaf pine. Crown survival was inversely related to the d.b.h. of the nearest pine. Turkey oaks less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) in d.b.h. were very sensitive to the proximity of longleaf pine which had up to a 33 foot (10 m) radius of influence on these small oaks. Turkey oaks smaller than 2.2 inches (5.5 cm) in d.b.h. had high crown mortality, but low tree mortality [29].

Turkey oak survival was higher near groves of sand live oak [29].


No entry


If turkey oak is top-killed, it sprouts vigorously from the root collar. Turkey oaks can recover easily from repeated top-kill because sprouting individuals may have more than 85 percent of their biomass underground. If the crown is killed immediately, the root collar sprouts more vigorously than if the crown dies slowly. A slowly dying crown retains apical dominance, which suppresses sprouting and uses up root reserves [29].

Small oaks sprout more vigorously than large oaks. Turkey oaks of an intermediate size [3.1 to 3.9 inches (8-10 cm) in d.b.h.] had the lowest survival after a spring fire in Florida because they were too small to be immune from crown mortality, but too large to be vigorous sprouters [29].


No entry


Prescribed burning to eradicate turkey oak is ineffective. Generally, there is inadequate fuel to carry the fire, and vigorous sprouting after fire will increase rather than decrease the number of oak stems [31]. Prescribed burning at 5-year intervals maintains a longleaf pine-turkey oak pyrophytic sandhill community [39].

Quercus laevis: References

1. Abrams, Marc D. 1990. Adaptations and responses to drought in Quercus species of North America. Tree Physiology. 7(1-4): 227-238. [14065]

2. Aizen, Marcelo A.; Patterson, William A., III. 1990. Acorn size and geographical range in the North American oaks (Quercus L.). Journal of Biogeography. 17: 327-332. [13450]

3. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]

4. Christensen, Norman L. 1988. Vegetation of the southeastern Coastal Plain. In: Barbour, Michael G.; Billings, William Dwight, eds. North American terrestrial vegetation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 317-363. [17414]

5. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]

6. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]

7. Garren, Kenneth H. 1943. Effects of fire on vegetation of the southeastern United States. Botanical Review. 9: 617-654. [9517]

8. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]

9. Grelen, Harold E. 1962. Plant succession on cleared sandhills in northwest Florida. The American Midland Naturalist. 67(1): 36-44. [12020]

10. Hannah, Peter R. 1987. Regeneration methods for oaks. Northern Journal of Applied Forestry. 4: 97-101. [3728]

11. Harlow, Richard F. 1990. Quercus laevis Walt. turkey oak. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agiculture, Forest Service: 672-676. [18069]

12. Harlow, William M.; Harrar, Ellwood S., White, F. M. 1979. Textbook of dendrology. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. 510 p. [18070]

13. Hon, Tip. 1981. Effects of prescribed fire on furbearers in the South. In: Wood, Gene W., ed. Prescribed fire and wildlife in southern forests: Proceedings of a symposium; 1981 April 6-8; Myrtle Beach, SC. Georgetown, SC: Clemson University, Belle W. Baruch Forest Science Institute: 121-128. [14818]

14. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]

15. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]

16. Loeb, Susan C.; Lennartz, Michael R. 1989. The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) in Southeastern pine-hardwood forests. In: Waldrop, Thomas A., ed. Proceedings of pine-hardwood mixtures: a symposium on management and ecology of the type; 1989 April 18-19; Atlanta, GA. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-58. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 142-148. [10271]

17. McGinty, Douglas T.; Christy, E. Jennifer. 1977. Turkey oak ecology on a Georgia sandhill. The American Midland Naturalist. 98(2): 487-491. [6431]

18. Means, D. Bruce; Campbell, Howard W. 1981. Effects of prescribed burning on amphibians and reptiles. In: Wood, Gene W., ed. Prescribed fire and wildlife in southern forests: Proceedings of a symposium; 1981 April 6-8; Myrtle Beach, SC. Georgetown, SC: Clemson University, Belle W. Baruch Forest Science Institute: 89-97. [14814]

19. Menges, Eric S.; Gallo, Noreen P. 1991. Fire effects on scrub-invaded sandhill at Archbold Biological Station: A plan for res. in ecosys., community, population, & physiological ecol. In: Proceedings, 17th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1989 May 18-21; Tallahassee, FL. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 413. Abstract. [17626]

20. Monk, Carl D. 1968. Successional and environmental relationships of the forest vegetation of north central Florida. The American Midland Naturalist. 79(2): 441-457. [10847]

21. Morrison, Michael L.; Heald, Robert C.; Dahlsten, Donald L. 1990. Can incense-cedar be managed for birds? Western Journal of Applied Forestry. 5(1): 28-30. [8390]

22. Myers, Ronald L. 1990. Scrub and high pine. In: Myers, Ronald L.; Ewel, John J., eds. Ecosystems of Florida. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Press: 150-193. [17389]

23. Myers, Ronald; White, Deborah L. 1987. Landscape history and changes in sandhill vegetation in north-central and south-central Florida. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 114(1): 21-32. [9782]

24. Nelson, John B. 1986. The natural communities of South Carolina. Columbia, SC: South Carolina Wildlife & Marine Resources Department. 54 p. [15578]

25. Olson, David F., Jr. 1974. Quercus L. oak. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 692-703. [7737]

26. Oosting, Henry J. 1954. Ecological processes and vegetation of the maritime strand in the southeastern United States. Botanical Review. 20: 226-262. [10730]

27. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]

28. Rebertus, A. J.; Williamson, G. B.; Moser, E. B. 1989. Fire-induced changes in Quercus laevis spatial pattern in Florida sandhills. Journal of Ecology. 77: 638-650. [11958]

29. Rebertus, Alan J.; Williamson, G. Bruce; Moser, E. Barry. 1989. Longleaf pine pyrogenicity and turkey oak mortality in Florida xeric sandhills. Ecology. 70(1): 60-70. [16217]

30. Shiflet, Thomas N., ed. 1994. Rangeland cover types of the United States. Denver, CO: Society for Range Management. 152 p. [23362]

31. Shipman, Robert D. 1958. Planting pine in the Carolina sandhills. Station Pap. No. 96. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 43 p. [17265]

32. Short, Henry L.; Epps, E. A., Jr. 1976. Nutrient quality and digestibility of seeds and fruits from southern forests. Journal of Wildlife Management. 40(2): 283-289. [10510]

33. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 10 p. [20090]

34. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1994. Plants of the U.S.--alphabetical listing. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 954 p. [23104]

35. Waggoner, Gary S. 1975. Eastern deciduous forest, Vol. 1: Southeastern evergreen and oak-pine region. Natural History Theme Studies No. 1, NPS 135. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. 206 p. [16103]

36. Williamson, G. Bruce; Black, Edwin M. 1981. High temperature of forest fires under pines as a selective advantage over oaks. Nature. 293: 643-644. [9917]

37. Woods, F. W.; Harris, H. C.; Caldwell, R. E. 1959. Monthly variations of carbohydrates and nitrogen in roots of sandhill oaks and wiregrass. Ecology. 40(2): 292-295. [11605]

38. Woolfenden, Glen E. 1973. Nesting and survival in a population of Florida scrub jays. Living Bird. 12: 25-49. [16723]

39. Workman, Sarah W.; McLeod, Kenneth W. 1991. Fire suppression, hardwood composition, and seasonal burns in longleaf pine sandhills. In: Proceedings, 17th Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1989 May 18-21; Tallahassee, FL. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 423. Abstract. [17632]

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