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Macrogroup Detail Report: M885
Quercus virginiana - Quercus fusiformis - Quercus hemisphaerica Forest Macrogroup

The U.S. National
Vegetation Classification
These are primarily evergreen broadleaf forests, dominated by evergreen Quercus spp. (Quercus virginiana, Quercus hemisphaerica), and are found both along the coast and inland in the Southeastern Coastal Plain from North Carolina south and west to Texas.
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Translated Name:Live Oak - Texas Live Oak - Darlington Oak Forest Macrogroup
Colloquial Name:Southeastern Coastal Plain Evergreen Oak - Mixed Hardwood Forest
This macrogroup accommodates primarily evergreen broadleaf forests of the coastal plains of the southeastern United States from North Carolina south and west to Texas. Stands are dominated by Quercus virginiana and/or Quercus hemisphaerica, found from North Carolina south into Florida and west to Mississippi, as well as stands dominated by various combinations of Quercus fusiformis, Quercus geminata, Quercus hemisphaerica, and/or Quercus virginiana, the particular combinations varying with geography, found from North Carolina to Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico coast from Florida to Texas. The near-coastal maritime examples are affected by coastal processes, and are prone to salt spray effects and storm surge from major hurricanes. The inland examples tend to occur on upper to mid slopes, but occasionally on broader uplands with reduced fire frequencies.
In the coastal plains, the various regionally variable combinations of Quercus fusiformis, Quercus geminata, Quercus hemisphaerica, and/or Quercus virginiana are diagnostic. For the maritime coastal examples of this macrogroup, Quercus virginiana is a strong diagnostic species. Pines, particularly Pinus taeda, may be present but are not diagnostic for this type.
Vegetation Hierarchy
Name:Database Code:Classification Code:
Class 1 Forest & Woodland C01 1
Subclass 1.B Temperate & Boreal Forest & Woodland S15 1.B
Formation 1.B.1 Warm Temperate Forest & Woodland F018 1.B.1
Division 1.B.1.Na Southeastern North American Forest & Woodland D006 1.B.1.Na
Macrogroup M885 Southeastern Coastal Plain Evergreen Oak - Mixed Hardwood Forest M885 1.B.1.Na.2
Group G790 Southern Evergreen Oak Forest G790 1.B.1.Na.2.b
Group G798 Coastal Live Oak - Hickory - Palmetto Forest G798 1.B.1.Na.2.a
Group G799 Texas Live Oak - Wax Mallow Motte & Coastal Forest G799 1.B.1.Na.2.c
According to Nixon and Muller (1997), all "live oaks" of coastal Texas southwest of the Brazos are considered Quercus fusiformis, although these are likely introgressed with Quercus virginiana and/or the Mexican species Quercus oleoides.

There is vegetation that appears similar to this macrogroup but is found within the range of longleaf pine. Marks and Harcombe (1981) address this issue in relation to vegetation of the Big Thicket region of Texas, within the range of longleaf pine. Their "Upper Slope Pine Oak Forest" may represent successional vegetation which has developed under longer fire-return intervals on portions of the landscape which would have historically been occupied by longleaf pine-dominated vegetation if fire had been more frequent. In contrast, their "Mid Slope Oak Pine Forest" may actually represent examples of this vegetation macrogroup which occur adjacent to longleaf pine-dominated uplands, but which are found on lower slopes where fire is infrequent enough that longleaf pine is absent. More investigation of this question is needed.

Lee Elliott (pers. comm.) suggests that the Quercus fusiformis types of south Texas may be more closely related to Tamaulipan vegetation (Prosopis, Colubrina, Celtis pallida) and that there is a need to recognize the relationship of these live oaks to Quercus oleoides of Mexico.

Related Type Name:

Short Citation:
  • Drew et al. 1998
  • Faber-Langendoen et al. 2017a
  • FNAI 1990
  • Marks and Harcombe 1981
  • Myers 1990a
  • Nixon and Muller 1997
States/Provinces:AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TX
Nations:MX?, US
Range:These predominantly evergreen broadleaf forests are found in the coastal plains of the southeastern United States from North Carolina south into Florida and eastern Texas.
US Forest Service Ecoregions
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These are typically predominantly evergreen broadleaf or mixed evergreen-deciduous forests. Quercus virginiana stands are generally short-statured forests, where exposure to the wind and salt spray along the shore can impart a dwarfed and sculpted shape to the vegetation. Broadleaf evergreen shrubs are common and herbaceous plants are usually sparse.
These are primarily evergreen forests of the coastal plains of the southeastern United States. From North Carolina west to Texas, these are forests dominated by evergreen Quercus spp., including broadleaf evergreen forests dominated by Quercus hemisphaerica, found from North Carolina south into Florida and west to Mississippi, as well as stands primarily dominated by Quercus fusiformis, Quercus geminata, Quercus hemisphaerica, and/or Quercus virginiana, found from North Carolina to Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico coast from Florida to Texas. In these forests, a wide variety of broadleaf evergreen shrubs are present, but the herbaceous cover is usually sparse. There is regional variation, both from north to south, and among coastward and landward examples. In Louisiana, Celtis laevigata may be a common canopy tree. Other canopy trees can include Carya glabra, Carya pallida, Diospyros virginiana, Magnolia grandiflora, Pinus spp., Quercus nigra, and Sabal palmetto. Understory trees and shrubs may include Callicarpa americana, Conradina canescens, Erythrina herbacea, Ilex glabra, Ilex vomitoria, Juniperus virginiana var. silicicola, Morella cerifera, Persea borbonia, Persea palustris, Quercus chapmanii, Quercus geminata, Quercus myrtifolia, Serenoa repens, Sideroxylon spp., Vaccinium arboreum, and Zanthoxylum clava-herculis. Vines can include Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Smilax spp., Toxicodendron radicans, and Vitis spp. Herbaceous plants are usually sparse and include Chasmanthium spp., Dichanthelium spp., Mitchella repens, Panicum virgatum, Paspalum spp., and Scleria triglomerata.
In the Atlantic Coastal Plain, these forests may occur in inland locations, as well as on barrier islands. Inland examples tend to occur on upper to mid slopes, but occasionally on broader uplands with reduced fire frequencies. A range of soils may be present from loamy and clayey to coarse sands, but soils are generally well-drained but not excessively drained. Soils are generally acidic, though calcareous soils occur occasionally. Sites are somewhat protected from most natural fires by steep topography and by limited flammability of the vegetation. Fires that penetrate these forests are generally low in intensity and have fairly limited ecological effect. Maritime forest examples are found on stabilized dunes and other related landforms composed of reworked well-drained coastal sands, which can be deep (>130 cm) (Drew et al. 1998). In Georgia, more mesic examples have relatively thin soils (to 50 cm) above clay. Topography varies from larger dunes to smaller ridges and swales, upland flat areas, salt domes, or coastal ridges called cheniers (in Louisiana). On the Atlantic Coast, these forests occur on the southeast coast of North Carolina and on the Sea Islands, a chain of low islands along the coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida, from the Cooper River to the St. Johns River. The climate is warm-temperate and humid. Coastal hurricanes and other storms can be an important influence on this vegetation. Where these forests occur along the coast, they are prone to salt spray and storm surge from major hurricanes.
Maritime Quercus virginiana-dominated examples are influenced by coastal processes. Coastal erosion and accretion cause shifting of coastal landforms. Hurricanes and other storms can knock down large areas of coastal forests, and the influence of salt spray limits the plants that can survive along the coast. Related more Inland examples occur in patches called hammocks, mottes, or cheniers. In Florida, lower frequency of growing-season fires apparently has contributed to the increased size and number of xeric hammocks (Myers 1990a). This oak hammock vegetation occurs as patches within the longleaf pine ecosystem. The litter of the broadleaf evergreen trees that dominate this vegetation does not readily burn, so fires that burn the surrounding longleaf pine habitats will generally not burn the hammocks.
M. Pyne      Version Date: 25Nov2014

  • Drew, M. B., L. K. Kirkman, and A. K. Gholson, Jr. 1998. The vascular flora of Ichauway, Baker County, Georgia: A remnant longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem. Castanea 63(1):1-24.
  • Faber-Langendoen, D., J. Drake, S. Gawler, M. Hall, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, L. Sneddon, K. Schulz, J. Teague, M. Russo, K. Snow, and P. Comer, editors. 2010-2017a. Divisions, Macrogroups and Groups for the Revised U.S. National Vegetation Classification. NatureServe, Arlington, VA. plus appendices. [in preparation]
  • FNAI [Florida Natural Areas Inventory]. 1990. Guide to the natural communities of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory and Florida Department of Natural Resources, Tallahassee. 111 pp.
  • Marks, P. L., and P. A. Harcombe. 1981. Forest vegetation of the Big Thicket, southeast Texas. Ecological Monographs 51:287-305.
  • Myers, R. L. 1990a. Scrub and high pine. Pages 150-193 in: R. L. Myers and J. L. Ewel, editors. Ecosystems of Florida. University of Central Florida Press, Orlando.
  • Nixon, K. C., and C. H. Muller. 1997. 5c. Quercus Linnaeus sect. Quercus. White oaks. Pages 471-506 in: Flora of North America Editorial Committee. Flora of North America, North of Mexico. Volume 3. Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae. Oxford University Press, New York.

USNVC Credits: Detailed Description of the National Vegetation Classification Types

Date Accessed:

To cite a description:
Author(s). publicationYear. Description Title [last revised revisionDate]. United States National Vegetation Classification. Federal Geographic Data Committee, Washington, D.C.

About spatial standards:
The United States Federal Geographic Data Committee (hereafter called the FGDC) is tasked to develop geospatial data standards that will enable sharing of spatial data among producers and users and support the growing National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), acting under the Office of Management Budget (OMB) Circular A-16 (OMB 1990, 2000) and Executive Order #12906 (Clinton 1994) as amended by Executive Order #13286 (Bush 2003). FGDC subcommittees and working groups, in consultation and cooperation with state, local, tribal, private, academic, and international communities, develop standards for the content, quality, and transferability of geospatial data. FGDC standards are developed through a structured process, integrated with one another to the extent possible, supportable by the current vendor community (but are independent of specific technologies), and publicly available.

About this document
This document contains type descriptions at the Macrogroup level of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. These descriptions were primarily written by NatureServe ecologists in collaboration with Federal Geographic Data Committee Vegetation Subcommittee and a wide variety of state, federal and private partners as a part of the implementation of the National Vegetation Classification. Formation descriptions were written by the Hierarchy Revisions Working Group. The descriptions are based on consultation with natural resource professionals, published literature, and other vegetation classification systems. The Ecological Society of America's Panel on Vegetation Classification is responsible for managing the review and formal adoption of these types into the National Vegetation Classification. Partners involved in the implementation of the USNVC include:

U.S. Government
  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Department of Commerce (DOC)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Department of the Interior (USDI)
  • Forest Service (FS) - Chair
  • National Agriculture Statistical Service (NASS)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)
  • U.S. Navy (NAVY)
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
  • National Park Service (NPS)
  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Non U.S. Government
  • NatureServe (NS)
  • Ecological Society of America (ESA)

Given the dynamic nature of the standard, it is possible a type description is incomplete or in revision at the time of download; therefore, users of the data should track the date of access and read the revisions section of the website to understand the current status of the classification. While USNVC data have undergone substantial review prior to posting, it is possible that some errors or inaccuracies have remained undetected.

For information on the process used to develop these descriptions see:

Faber-Langendoen, D., T. Keeler-Wolf, D. Meidinger, D. Tart, B. Hoagland, C. Josse, G. Navarro, S. Ponomarenko, J.-P. Saucier, A. Weakley, P. Comer. 2014. EcoVeg: A new approach to vegetation description and classification. Ecological Monographs 84:533-561 (erratum 85:473).

Franklin, S., D. Faber-Langendoen, M. Jennings, T. Keeler-Wolf, O. Loucks, A. McKerrow, R.K. Peet, and D. Roberts. 2012. Building the United States National Vegetation Classification. Annali di Botanica 2: 1-9.

Jennings, M. D., D. Faber-Langendoen, O. L. Louckes, R. K. Peet, and D. Roberts. 2009. Standards for associations and alliances of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. Ecological Monographs 79(2):173-199.

FGDC [Federal Geographic Data Committee]. 2008. Vegetation Classification Standard, FGDC-STD-005, Version 2. Washington, DC., USA. []

For additional information contact:

  • Implementation of the U.S. National Vegetation Classification Standard - Alexa McKerrow (
  • NatureServe's Development of NVC Type Descriptions - Don Faber-Langendoen (don_faber-
  • Ecological Society of America's Review of the Type Descriptions
  • Federal Geographic Data Committee - Vegetation Subcommittee's Activities - Marianne Burke (
We have incorporated significant descriptive information previously compiled by Judy Teague and Carl Nordman.