The first time I came to visit St. Edward’s University, I was marveled with the Soaring Oak. I thought it was a very symbolic tree that stood out in the university. Besides being the best spot with wifi on campus, this majestic tree first claimed my attention because of its huge size and its rich green foliage. Sitting on the chairs under its branches is one of my favorites spots on campus to do homework. Also, the astonishing view of Austin’s skyline and the peaceful environment under the shade of the tree is the perfect contrast between a urban site and the tranquil scenery experienced sitting in the benches under the tree. This tree is the second oldest in the entire city of Austin yet still manages to look strong and healthy. The scientific name for this species is the Quercus virginiana. According to the National Park Service this trees can grow 40 to 50 feet tall and is usually covered by Spanish moss. The relationship between this moss and the live oak is one of commensalism as the moss takes water, nutrients and shelter from the tree but the latter does not get harmed in any way. While observing this tree, I noticed that various squirrels use this tree as protection from the sun and get the acorn that it produces as a source of food. Different species of birds also enjoyed sheltering in this enormous tree due to the complexity of the leaves. Even though this specie seems to be evergreen, it is actually deciduous, meaning that their leaves fall during winter as later new ones emerge. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas, the Live Oak Tree was originally distributed throughout southeast Virginia south to Florida and western Cuba, west to east TX. Currently, this specie can be found in Alabama, Florida , Georgia , Louisiana , Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina,Texas and Virginia. Due to its resistance to disease and strong core, the wood of this tree used to be utilized for shipbuilding around the 1700. This tree even played a pivotal role in American history as, “early famous live oak vessels include the Hancock, an American revolutionary privateer, and the USS Constitution and Constellation, built in the 1790’s. The Constitution saw action against the British during the war of 1812, receiving the nickname “Old Ironsides” due to the strength of its live oak construction.” (national park service, 2016) Due to the importance of the Quercus Virginiana, the United States government protected thousand of acres where this tree grew. As of today, the strength of the Live Oak is still celebrated at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Usually this tree has many firm branches that end in beautiful opaque green leaves. Throughout the sturdy dark brown base, one can notice the age of this magnificent tree. Even though we sometimes relate age with weakness, for this tree it represents the complete opposite. Because this organism needs a lot of water to survive but has adapted to thrive in moderate drought. Oak wilt, fungal disease that affects only oak trees, is a real threat as it is able to damage the base and the roots of the tree. This disease can cause the death of the tree as it blocks the tree from getting water and nutrients necessary to survive. Live Oaks in specific are very susceptible to this disease because “they tend to grow from root sprouts and from vast interconnected root systems that allow movement” (Texas Oak Wilt Organization, 2017) During the few hours that I observed this organism, I did not really noticed any changes, but this blog has been super helpful as to understand and appreciate more the beauty of this tree.
Introduction to Oak Wilt. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2017, from http://texasoakwilt.org/oakwilt/
Plant Database. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=QUVI