Live Oak

Live Oak

Live Oak

If these boughs could talk, they’d tell centuries of stories

By Bill Warhop

The languid coastal plain of Jekyll Island teems with Southern live oaks, Quercus virginiana, dripping with fuzzy tendrils of Spanish moss. Georgia’s state tree is a symbol of strength and a bulwark against time itself.

Most of the tree’s mass is in its long, drooping limbs. The longest, heaviest branches swoop low to rest on the forest floor before soaring upward again, stabilizing the tree against hurricanes and other storms.

One of the oldest and largest live oaks on Jekyll is the majestic Plantation Oak in the National Historic Landmark District. It dates to the mid-seventeenth century and at seven feet eight inches in diameter is a foot wider than LeBron James is tall.

It’s one of the few “evergreen” oaks; leaves cling through the winter and are replaced over several weeks each spring.

The keel of the USS Constitution, launched in 1797, was built with live oak “ribs” sourced from coastal Georgia. The ship resisted British cannon fire so spectacularly in the War of 1812 it earned the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

This article first appeared in Volume 2 Number 1 of 31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island.

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