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There are two of these trees, growing in old fence rows, along my yard, in central VA, Augusta County, Shenandoah Valley. They have smooth, leathery leaves, pale wood, quite hard to cut, and tough to break. The close ups are of some limbs I trimmed, yesterday. The biggest is about 10 inches in diameter, and perhaps 40 feet tall. Branches tend to grow strangely hooked elbows that send branches off into strange directions, which makes trimmed limbs tangle and hook together. This is what the foliage looks like in mid September. Looking up under canopy.  Note scraggly shape. Trimmed off, near vertical branch tip. Side branch tip, leaf detail. Three inch branch cut end.

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  • $\begingroup$ Have you tried to split it? If you have, and it mangles instead of splits, it's a kind of a gum tree. Gums are very hard wood, impossible to split, and the branches hang down and seem gnarly. It's the only type of tree I know of that looks like that with those smooth, shiny leaves. (I had black gums in my woods.) Not 100% so no an answer. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Sep 16 '17 at 21:41
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I'm thinking this is a Quercus imbricaria, which has the nickname of "shingle oak"; they're native to the eastern regions of the United States, which includes your state and county, exhibited immediately below.


Distribution

enter image description here Brown = absent; Dark green = present in state/Native; Light green = present in county/Native. (source)

The leaves

The leaves are mostly linear in shape, with entire margins & a combination of pinnate and dichotomous venation. The overall color, size and sheen also seem to match quite well.

enter image description here

Overall tree

Surprisingly, I had a difficult time finding a decent image that showed a close up of the branching for this tree, so I decided to use an image of a Quercus laurifolia instead, which is of the same genus as the proposed species, and is also found in the eastern [but more southern parts of the] United States.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Your leaf photos look very much like this tree. An oak without lobed leaves hadn't occurred to me, and did not come up on tree identification apps I tried. The trunk bark also looks very like oak. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – jpopelish Sep 20 '17 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ I turned up laurel oak while googling around. But wouldn't the acorns give away it was an oak? jpopelish - did you ever notice acorns? An oak that size should make plenty. $\endgroup$ – Willk Sep 21 '17 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ I have not seen one acorn, in three years, from either of these trees. That would have given away that they are oaks, Both were badly crowded by sassafras and wild cherry trees, up until a year ago, if that is an explanation. $\endgroup$ – jpopelish Sep 22 '17 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ It generally take oaks decades before producing their first acorns, and is why I wasn't concerned too much with this during the IDing process. Also, once acorns are produced, future production is intermittent. $\endgroup$ – Charles Sep 22 '17 at 1:41
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It is a Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis

If the leaves are brittle and crack when folded and they smell fragrant then almost certainly.

I would ask this first, but unable to comment until 50 reputation

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  • $\begingroup$ Respectfully speaking, this is not the correct ID. The tree you propose have leaves that are ovate/elliptic/obtuse in shape, however, the OPs leaves are much more linear. I also believe your proposed tree's leaves have sinuated margins, whereas the OPs leaf margins are entire. $\endgroup$ – Charles Sep 19 '17 at 2:59
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    $\begingroup$ bay laurel is a bushy tree which doesnt have a pronounced trunk below the leaves. i didnt see a bay laurel taller than 4-5 meters. $\endgroup$ – com.prehensible Sep 19 '17 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ I think these leaves are flexible and leathery, rather than brittle, though quite smooth and glossy on the upper surface. $\endgroup$ – jpopelish Sep 19 '17 at 23:46

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