Magnificient Southern Trees


(South Carolina’s 1,500-year-old Angel Oak. Photo credit.)

When I think of trees, I think of the four spring-flowering Bradford Pears that made a square in my childhood backyard. How the trees formed a lane perfect for pitching baseballs (to my mother mostly). How I watched them, unknowingly, grow from weak treelings to wonderful, burgundy-leafed adults. And how they sort of watched me rise as well. Trees are markers of the changing seasons, givers of shade, reminders of time, and anchors to place.

Here are a few famous ones in the South that bring to mind the words of William Cullen Bryant, "The groves were God’s first temples."


Texas’ Big Tree
Known also as the Bishop Oak, this massive and aged tree on Goose Island is known to most as the Lone Star’s largest. Its spot, 40 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, smells of sea salt on windy days.

South Carolina’s majestic Angel Oak
Looking at the Johns Island, SC oak makes you feel like the world was bigger in another age. That this tree is only remnant. The branches grow in and out of the sandy soil like they have minds of their own. And the name doesn’t hurt the mystique, though most are surprised to realize it was the family name of previous landowners. With 17,000 square feet of shade capabilities, the Angel is most magical of Lowcountry oaks.


Georgia’s towering Gennett Poplar
If you find yourself near Ellijay, GA, stop by North GA Outfitters (706-698-4453) downtown and ask about the Bear Creek Trail off Gates Chapel Road. Twenty minutes on the trail, an easy walk for even novice trekkers, and one of the region’s largest poplars stands high above the rest of the protected Chattahoochee forest. I measured its base at 5 bearhugs round.


Louisiana’s Cat Island King Cypress
To see dreamy bayou cypresses in multitudes, I recommend Caddo Lake north of Shreveport. But to see the king of all cypresses in the state, venture to Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge near St. Francisville. In the beginning of settlements in Louisiana, cypress was the wood builders chose for homesteads, cabins, shotgun houses, and furniture because of its sturdiness and resistance to weather and bugs. Luckily, they never found this one, the largest in the state at 53-feet in circumference.


(Photo by John J. Young)

Washington DC and the Tidal Basin
Approximately 3,750 cherry trees dot the Tidal Basin in our capitol, most of the Yoshino Cherry variety. Other mystically named species
include Kwanzan Cherry, Akebono Cherry, Usuzumi
Cherry, Weeping Japanese Cherry, Autumn Flowering
Cherry, and Afterglow Cherry. I hear locals brave the DC winters with dreams of the Festival and the booming and bright cherry blossoms.


The Tree That Owns Itself calls Athens, GA home
I’ve heard of the wealthy and absent-minded man who wills his fortune to a mean old cat, but never this. Between Dearing and Finley Streets in the college town east of Atlanta, this white oak legally owns the land within 8 feet of its trunk. Or so says the legend and stone marker. The official deed papers burned in a fire, but were to have read something like this:

I, W. H. Jackson, of the county of Clarke, of the one part, and the oak
tree… of the county of Clarke, of the other part: Witnesseth, That the
said W. H. Jackson for and in consideration of the great affection
which he bears said tree, and his great desire to see it protected has
conveyed, and by these presents do convey unto the said oak tree entire
possession of itself and of all land within eight feet of it on all


Survivor Tree in Oklahoma City
The American Elm stands as a symbol of hope and resilience in the heart of Oklahoma City’s beautiful National Memorial. Called the Survivor Tree, the elm lived through the 1995 blast. After the bombing, debris strewn in the limbs, investigators considered bringing down the tree for processing of the evidence. Better heads prevailed, and today the Elm stands in remembrance.


  1. herbal products

    These trees are really wonderful. I hope they will still be around 50 years from now for my grandchildren to enjoy. Let us help make it happen.

    January 17, 2012 at 7:55 pm
  2. uggs outlet

    Is this the same place that was formerly Fowler’s?

    November 8, 2010 at 8:43 pm
  3. bobbyd

    Anyone know how “the Fairchild Oak” got its name??

    April 26, 2009 at 5:48 pm
  4. julee

    Trees are a key indicator species of a healthy urban environment. A perennial woody plant with a main trunk and usually a distinct crown. The world’s champion trees can be considered on several factors; height, trunk diameter or girth, total size, and age. It is significant that in each case, the top position is always held by a conifer, though a different species in each case; in most measures, the second to fourth places are also held by conifers.
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    August 28, 2008 at 11:52 pm
  5. Bert

    Trees are a key indicator species of a healthy urban environment. With most of their root hairs torn off during transplant, the trees have a more difficult time absorbing water.

    August 4, 2008 at 5:13 am
  6. Bert

    Trees are a key indicator species of a healthy urban environment. With most of their root hairs torn off during transplant, the trees have a more difficult time absorbing water.

    August 4, 2008 at 5:11 am
  7. Lorna

    The Angel Oak is magnificent! But did you know she is in danger? The City of Charleston and Mayor Joseph Riley have approved development on 3 sides of her small park. This will include 600 “low end housing” and commerical/retail space. Please sign our petition:
    Email our mayor:
    And keep updated by our newspaper:
    Thank you!

    July 25, 2008 at 10:51 am
  8. TB

    All across urban America, people are planting trees. Check out one such group, TreeLink.

    July 16, 2008 at 4:08 pm
  9. TB

    The Fairchild. Wow. Looks like a great climbing tree.

    July 14, 2008 at 10:24 am
  10. Annette Thompson

    The Fairchild Oak–in Bulow Creek State Park off Old Dixie Highway between Daytona and Flagler Beaches (less than 5 minutes off I-95!)–is one of my favorites. It’s estimated to be more than 500 years old, with long bandy arms bending and twisting out inviting visitors to rest in its shade. It’s too big to be in a single photograph.

    July 14, 2008 at 7:58 am
  11. Hobbs

    That Angel Oak is fantastic. Another favorite of mine was the “moon tree” at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which was a sycamore planted in ’76 after its seed made a trip to space.
    Anyway, great post. Thanks!

    July 11, 2008 at 9:08 am
  12. Tanner Latham

    While the Angel Oak is the undisputed king of the live oaks out on St. John’s Island, there are tons of glorious trees out there lining the gravel roads. The first time I tried to find it–looking for the right route–I pulled up to a driveway but was deterred by a plain white sign posting “Not Angel Oak” in black block letters.

    July 11, 2008 at 7:44 am

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