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Live Oaks in Florida

Live Oaks—Big and Beautiful

Live oaks make up one of the most incredible tree species we have in the United States. I had the pleasure of viewing close up many live oaks while in Lakeland, Florida this December. These massive trees, with Spanish moss hanging from their incredibly long limbs—covered by resurrection ferns—are breathtaking. 

Massive Live Oak in Lakeland, Florida

A Famous Example

Possibly the most famous is the Angel Oak in South Carolina which is 400-500 years old and has a branch over 187 feet in length (wiki). Live oaks live so long and their branches are so strong because, unlike other white oaks, their grain is not straight and uniform. 

Angel Oak

An Imaginary Example

The imaginary Beka’s Tree, a bur oak in my novel, Leafensong: First Telling, is hundreds of years old and has super long limbs. I gave her the characteristics of a live oak to allow her to grow as old as she is and have such unusual limbs.

Here is an excerpt from chapter 26 describing Beka’s Tree:

But a genetic abnormality also created unique characteristics. The veins and arteries crossed over and around one another. Instead of running in straight vertical rows, they were tangled and interlocked, similar to southern live oaks that grew far to the south. And like live oaks, as a result, the wood was far stronger than most bur oaks. It was more flexible, resistant to splitting, and able to withstand storms that whipped the branches back and forth. The interlocking grain survived the penetration of damaging fungi and prevented decay.

Why They are called Live Oaks? 

Live oaks have that name because they bear their small, green leaves year-round, dropping them only before putting on new leaves in the spring. They have a deep taproot giving them great stability in hurricanes; they grow fast when young but slow down as they get older.

Amazing Strength

The wood of live oaks is famous for being strong. Once prized for building wooden boats, live oak was used for the vertical frames, with white oak for the exterior and interior planking, in building the USS Constitution. The ship was given the name “Old Ironsides” when sailors saw that cannonballs from the British frigate, Guerriere, bounced off her sides during their battle during the War of 1812.

U.S.S Constitution

A Floridian Example

While in Florida, I stayed with my daughter, granddaughter and wife at a lovely Airbnb bungalow a block from Lake Hollingsworth and next to Florida Southern College (which—sidenote—has the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings). Many live oaks were found along the lake and in the neighborhood. 

Thank You, Neighbor

I saw one huge specimen in a nearby back yard and fortunately, the owner of the house was in her front yard. She gave me permission to take photos of the tree and I was awestruck. Limbs extended clear across the back yard and out over the alley. The trunk and limbs were immense. Here is a video of this majestic tree, which I intend to draw at some point.

To read about other inspiring trees I’ve encountered, click here.

To see how I go about drawing a tree (a step-by-step example) click here.

To get the first two chapters of my book free, click here and click on the top bar.

To read more about the Angel Oak in South Carolina, click here.

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