Live oaks are a type of evergreen oak, so named because they look 'live' and green all year. They are in the black/red oak subgenus, and are generally charactarized by small, waxy leaves which hold in moisture. These oaks are common in coastal California and other areas which can be dry, but don't get very cold. Others are seen in the Southeast US. Similar oaks, although under different names, are also seen in the Mediterranean.

Live oaks may grow to great size, but some are small shrubs found in chaparall. They generally are quite fire resistant - most will survive small fires, and will sprout from the stem and roots in large ones. Fires also maintain the 'open' oak woodland look in areas these oaks grow. Recently, fire supression and overgrazing, as well as habitat loss, has threatened some of these oaks, although they are still quite common in the coastal range of California. They make excellent landscape plants in their home range, but shouldn't be over watered. In colder climates, they are particularly vurnerable to snowload, as their open architecture and evergreen nature cause them to collect lots of heavy snow on their branches.