January 09, 2019

Have You Seen the Angel Oak?

angel oak 1

If you're ever traveling near Charleston, S.C., you really must make an effort to see the "Angel Oak." This 400-500-year-old Southern Live Oak tree (Quercus virginiana) covers about 17,200 square feet and is 65 feet tall. It's thought to be one of the oldest living things in the U.S.

marker

There's no charge to visit Angel Oak Park, located on Johns Island, just a few miles southwest of Charleston. It's quite an expansive property, with plenty of space to view, walk near, and explore below and among the branches of this amazing tree.

The day we were there, in March, the weather was misty, but comfortable. We were on our way between Charleston and Savanna, Ga. As always, I wish I'd had more time to explore, and of course pictures can't do it justice. But believe me, it was wonderful!

leaning in

While looking through my photos to decide which ones to post, I noticed the people in this photo were leaning in! This was very flat ground; not a hill. I find their posture with the tree fascinating.

leaning in cropped

Zooming in: Was it empathy and respect for this incredibly long-lived and stunningly beautiful tree that caused them to lean toward it?

resting branches

Some of the tree's branches are so large they're like separate trees, themselves. Many are so big and heavy that they rest on the ground, which only happens with the very oldest Live Oaks.

trunk

The main trunk has a circumference of 28 feet.

supporting life

There are so many awesome features of this tree, but what really hit me and amazed me on observing it was that it's obviously a complex ecosystem unto itself--a community of living and nonliving things that work together. The knots, the bark, the branches, and the tree holes support insects, birds, mammals, fungi, mosses, lichens, bromeliads, and other life forms. I could have spent hours studying all the nooks and crannies and secret treasures.

ferns and mosses

ferns

spanish moss

Love the Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides)!

angel oak 2

Good memories; amazing tree! Have you seen it?

27 comments:

  1. It's a magnificent tree and you're right that the plant community its limbs support are an important part of its charm. Like the old redwoods in California, it inspires reverence. South Carolina appears to be doing a good job of protecting it too.

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    1. Yes, it's pretty amazing how much life it supports. I read something the other day about how at one point the tree was threatened by nearby development. And then some local groups got together to protect the land around it. I imagine the roots spread pretty far, and it would be sad to see them damaged by development.

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  2. Wow, I want to visit! We visited an old cemetery in Georgia, the trees where huge and old, very fascinating to look at what was growing on them, using them and so on, just like you shared. Great Post, thank you for sharing!

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    1. Yes, it's definitely worth a visit! If I ever have a chance to visit again, I'd like to spend a little more time there. Those old Live Oaks are incredible!

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  3. Heartwarming to see the web of life spanning just one tree.

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  4. I've seen and agree with every point you made in this post. The Angel Oak is an extraordinary tree. Several years ago we were staying not too far from John's Island and visited the tree three or four times. Each visit was worth it -- the tree kept showing us aspects of itself that we would have missed in a quick visit. If anyone passes nearby, do take time to see this magnificent specimen.

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    1. Lucky you! We really should have planned more time at the tree. If I have a chance to visit again, I'll plan for at least a few hours. We were only there for about an hour.

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  5. Charlie and I stopped by the Angel Oak on our trip to Charleston a couple summers ago. The road leading up to it was so unassuming we thought we weren't going the correct route. I love this tree.
    The folks leaning in is really interesting. I had hoped to get photos without people in the frame, but yours really helps with the size reference.

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    1. I agree--I wasn't sure we were in the right place until we got right up to the property and saw the tree. I think I might have a few photos without the people. I probably should have included more of those here. Each perspective is fascinating! You are fortunate to live so close to it, Janet.

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    1. Thank you. It's definitely worth a side trip. I would plan for a couple of hours, at least. :)

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  7. Wow - what an incredible tree! I can only imagine how amazing it must be in person...one can't help but be awe struck. And just think of everything that this tree has seen over its lifetime...!

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    1. It is, Margaret! And, yes, one wonders what it has seen over all those years. That sounds like a good plot for a historical novel or a movie. :)

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  8. Thanks for sharing this awesome tree. I've never seen it in person but can imagine that it would be an incredible experience. Glorious!

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    1. You are welcome, Peter. It's definitely worth a side trip if you're near Charleston or Savannah. Amazing tree, for so many reasons!

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  9. Quite an amazing site. But the photo of the people leaning in is equally amazing.

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    1. I was surprised to see the leaning people when I was sorting through the photos. The ground was pretty flat, so I don't think it's an optical illusion. Interesting, in any case.

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  10. What a resplendent tree. Simply magnificent. It appears that the tree is drawing people in. Sucking up their good vibes. I have not seen it. If I ever get over that way again I would love to see it. I bet those are resurrection ferns on the tree. You got to see it in prime time it appears.

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    1. It is, Lisa! Yes, you would really appreciate it. There were so many interesting ferns and other plants and life forms on the tree. Amazing stuff.

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  11. No, I have not seen it! I have heard of it, however, and I appreciate your post. What a wonderful tree! I especially love the close up views of its trunk. Surely the life force of that tree is puling people toward it! I would love to see it in person.

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    1. Thanks, Deb. I should have gotten even closer to capture more of the plants, lichens, fungi, animals, etc. The temptation is to try to capture as much of the tree in one frame as you can, but part of the miracle of the tree is the variety of life forms it supports!

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  12. Wow. I have not seen it, but oh how gorgeous!! I love all the ferns growing on it. Absolutely magnificent!

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  13. If your pictures don't do the Angel Oak justice,Beth, then it is truly amazing! Would love to visit it for myself. P. x

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  14. We've been to Charleston, but we missed the Angel Oak. If we ever get back, we'll defintely make a point of seeing it. Great photos!

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  15. For a Wyoming gal, that's an unbelievable oak! Wow.

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