April 28, 2020
Live oaks have better things to do than worry about being messy!

by Mary Reid Barrow

Our beloved live oaks are at it again.  Now mine is  dropping little yellowish-green bunches of curlicues all over my porch mixed in with the last of the oak’s old leaves that are still falling.

 As much as I love our iconic Tidewater tree, it sure is a messy thing.  I excuse it by thinking that it has its mind on more important things, like standing strong to protect our shorelines  against nor’easters and hurricanes,  better than any other tree we have here.

 Right now, we are in the midst of  live oaks’ spring messy season when these curlicues, called catkins, are dropping everywhere.  They are what’s left of the live oak flower blooms and they are falling amidst the last of the live oak leaves to drop from the tree too. 

 Full of yellow pollen, male catkins hang in bunches from the end of a twig and female catkins flower along  the twig:

 Live oaks are very  good at dropping things. They only take a short rest in summer before they start dropping their acorns and from there it’s on to leaves and catkins.

 Live oaks are good at growing things tool.  it sends baby live oaks up from its roots.  Seedling oaks,  farther away from the tree,  probably have grown from acorns planted by the squirrels amongst your flowers and vegetables.

 Squirrels dine with gusto on live oak acorns as well as the tiny blooms on the catkins.

 The live oak is called just that because it stays “live” all year and doesn’t lose its leaves all at once as most oak trees do. But I wonder, sometimes ,if maybe lively oak is a better name because the tree never stops dropping  or growing things, kind of like a lively messy child!

 I once had an editor from the Midwest who deleted the word ,“live,”  when I wrote about live oaks.  Everyone knows the oak is alive, he told me.

 Little did he know how alive!

 Do you have a favorite tree, a secret tree grove or neighborhood climbing tree that you love?  Let me know your  stories about trees,  the critters who live in them and the insects that dine on them.  Send an email to  You also can sign up below to be notified when my blog comes out


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