My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Tale of Two Oaks

I love to visit champion trees. They are so magnificent, if sometimes a little tired, and make me want to reflect on the history they have observed during their long lives. The very air around them feels special.

One of my favorite old trees is Big Tree, in Rockport, Texas.  I usually visit Goose Island State Park at least once a year and always travel the few miles to see this old tree, believed to be around 1000 years old.  It is fenced off to keep people from getting too close. The field behind it is open, but in front of it,  in a kind of semicircle, are many of its children.

The "Big Tree" statistics:
  • Trunk circumference:  35 feet 1.75 inches or 10.71 meters
  • Average trunk diameter:  11 feet 2.25 inches or 3.41 meters
  • Crown spread:  89 feet or 27.1 meters
  • Height:  44 feet or 13.4 meters
  • Age:  In excess of 1,000 years
I always take time to re-read the plaque, written by John E. Williams:

Welcome to my home.
I am a live oak tree and I am very old. I have seen spring return more than a thousand times. I can remember hundreds of hurricanes, most I'd rather forget, but I withstood. There was a big fire once. I hate fires.
Around me are my offspring. We are an old-dune woodland community. We provide shelter and acorns for squirrels, jays, raccoons, bobwhite, deer, javelina, and most other members of our community.
For most of my life I belonged only to myself. Now I belong to you, or so I'm told. Humpf! Branch breakers and root tramplers the lot of you.
Some years ago someone came and patched my cracks, trimmed my dead branches, killed my pests and healed my fungus rots. Was that you? I'm feeling much better, thank you.
I am tired now. You may leave me in peace when you are ready to go. Please leave my home as you found it. I have important things to do. The seasons are changing again and I must get ready.
On my journey from Texas to North Carolina, I stopped to visit a friend in South Carolina.  We went to Charleston one day and stopped to visit another patriarch in St. John's Island. The Angel Oak is, like Big Tree, a coastal live oak, Quercus virginiana. It is both older and bigger than Big Tree, one of the few things that aren't bigger in Texas. 

We were there near noon, a time when there were a lot of people around, including school children on a field trip, but I tried to capture some of its essence. 

I was happy to see resurrection fern on the Angel Oak

Really old live oaks, eventually lay some of their limbs on the ground

At about 1,500 years, this tree is believed to be the oldest living thing east of the Rockies.

Angel Tree's Statistics:

  • Height: 65 feet
  • Circumference: 25.5 Feet
  • Area of Shade: 17,000 sq. feet

These trees illustrate another thing I've noticed. At least the southern part of the eastern seaboard shares a lot of plants with states along the Gulf coast. Often I feel as though I'm in east Texas or Louisiana, when I travel down roads through a mixed pine and hardwood forest.