Angel Oak on Johns Island, South Carolina

01
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Charleston's Angel Oak

The Angel Oak
The Angel Oak. Photo by Steve Nix

The Angel Oak is a Southern live oak tree located in Angel Oak Park, on Johns Island, South Carolina. It may be the oldest tree east of the Mississippi River and is certainly one of the most beautiful.

The Angel Oak is the property of and maintained by the City of Charleston, South Carolina. The tree could be as old as 1500 years but attempts to age the tree have failed. It stands 65 feet tall and the crown covers an area of 17,000 square feet. Its longest limb is 89 feet long.

02
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The Angel Tree is Protected

Angel Oak Dedication Plaque
Angel Oak Dedication Plaque. Photo by Kim Nix

This plaque celebrates the Angel Oak's selection as South Carolina's 2004 Heritage Tree by the Urban and Community Forestry Council. The tree and its surrounding park has been owned by the neighboring city of Charleston since 1991. It is now a protected tree and funded for continued maintenance.

  • A Live Oak Photo Gallery
  • Plant and Manage a Live Oak
  • Identify a Live Oak
  • 03
    of 09

    The Angel Tree's Largest Limb

    Largest Angel Oak Limb
    Largest Angel Oak Limb. Photo by Kim Nix

    You can only get a feel for the size of this tree by standing under, and next to, her limbs and trunk. Although the Angel Oak only grows to 65 feet, it is a monster in spread. The tree's circumference is 25.5 feet, it shades 17,000 square feet (nearly one half acre) and the largest limb is 89 feet long and 11 feet thick.

  • A Live Oak Photo Gallery
  • Plant and Manage a Live Oak
  • Identify a Live Oak
  • 04
    of 09

    The Angel Oak from Afar

    The Angel Oak from Afar
    The Angel Oak from Afar. Photo by Steve Nix

    Looking at the Angel Oak from a distance, you might get a different impression of the tree. At only 65 feet tall the tree is not real impressive and actually looks like a grove of small trees.

    Angel Oak is a live oak and native to much of the southern United States. It is particularly abundant throughout the Coastal South and interior Texas.

    Variations in leaf sizes and acorn cup shapes distinguish two varieties from the typical, Texas live oak (Q. uirginiana var. fusiformis (Small) Sarg.) and sand live oak (Q. virginiana var. geminata (Small) Sarg.)

  • A Live Oak Photo Gallery
  • Plant and Manage a Live Oak
  • Identify a Live Oak
  • 05
    of 09

    Heritage of Angel Oak

    Angel Oak Spread
    Angel Oak Spread. Photo by Steve Nix

    Angel Oak stands on a part of the Abraham Waight small land grant. Records show that the ownership of the live oak and surrounding land go back to the year 1717 when Abraham Waight received it as part of a land grant from the English colonies.

    The tree stayed in the Waight family for four generations but changed as a part of a marriage settlement to Justus Angel and Martha Waight Tucker Angel.

    In 1959, Mutual Land & Development Corporation purchased the property, but the South Carolina Agricultural Society leased Angel Oak for $1 per year, caring for the tree. S.E. Felkel purchased the tree and the surrounding area in 1964. The Magnolia Garden Club tended the tree and grounds until the late 1970s, when vandalism forced the owner to fence the tree.

    The City of Charleston now protects the tree and has since 1991.

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    The Angel Oak Foliage

    Angel Oak Foliage
    Angel Oak Foliage. Photo by Steve Nix

    Live oak (Quercus virginiana), also called Virginia live oak, is evergreen with a variety of forms, shrubby or dwarfed to large and spreading, depending upon the site. Usually live oak grows on sandy soils of low coastal areas, but it also grows in dry sandy Woods or moist rich woods.

    The wood is very heavy and strong but is little used at present. Birds and animals eat the acorns. Live oak is fast-growing and easily transplanted when young so is used widely as an ornamental.

  • A Live Oak Photo Gallery
  • Plant and Manage a Live Oak
  • Identify a Live Oak
  • 07
    of 09

    The Angel Oak Needs Support

    Angel Oak Supports
    Angel Oak Supports. Photo by Steve Nix

    This particular live oak has survived centuries of bad coastal weather including a hurricane called Hugo in 1989. The Angel Tree is a sturdy tree but, as with all trees, is weakening with age.

    A very sophisticated system of cabling and pole supports secure the tree.

  • A Live Oak Photo Gallery
  • Plant and Manage a Live Oak
  • Identify a Live Oak
  • 08
    of 09

    Squirrel on Angel Oak

    Squirrel on Angel Oak
    Squirrel on Angel Oak. Photo by Kim Nix

    Live oak is monoecious. Flowers are produced every spring, March through May. The acorns, long and tapered and dark brown to black, mature in September of the first year and fall before December.

    The acorn from live oak trees is a major food for animals in the coastal low-country. An important mast-producing tree, it's acorns are eaten by a variety of wildlife, including some birds.

  • A Live Oak Photo Gallery
  • Plant and Manage a Live Oak
  • Identify a Live Oak
  • 09
    of 09

    Live Oak Associates

    Amazing Limb Structure
    Amazing Limb Structure. Photo by Kim Nix

    Common trees growing along with live oak are water oak (Quercus nigra), laurel oak (Q. laurifolia), southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), and sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua).

  • A Live Oak Photo Gallery
  • Plant and Manage a Live Oak
  • Identify a Live Oak