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John’s Island Angel Oak Tree: A Must-See Along the Sea

September 5, 2013

When Lorraine Smith approached the Angel Oak tree with her husband, who towers 6 feet and 4 inches above the ground, there was no doubt in her mind she had encountered a very large tree.

In fact, the Angel Oak is the largest tree Smith, office coordinator for Davey's North Detroit office, has encountered in person-by far. "In one picture, you can barely see me and my husband," she says. "This tree is huge and beautiful!"

Smith and her husband were traveling to visit their daughter, Michelle, who had recently moved to John's Island, S.C. Because it was Smith's first visit to the island, Michelle insisted they take a slight detour on the route back to her home: "I have to show you something!" she had said.

Upon their visit to Angel Oak Park, the Smiths explored the perimeter of the tree, including its far-reaching branches that greet the earth below and scattered signage explaining the tree's history and significance, such as a plaque that reads, "This commemorates the selection of the Angel Oak as the South Carolina Urban and Community Forestry Council '2004 Heritage Tree.'"

Every Tree Tells a Story 2 - WEB
Lorraine Smith are her husband stand at the base of the Angel Oak tree-a 66.5-feet-tall live oak from John's Island, S.C.

Smith and her family are just a few of many visitors who cross paths with the Angel Oak each year. It's quite the sight to see for nearly all Charleston visitors. In fact, a symbol of the town itself, despite its location on John's Island, the Angel Oak is a 66.5-feet-tall live oak native to the coastal Carolinas-and it's said to be the largest tree east of the Mississippi River.

"Its massive, draping limbs and wide-spreading canopy present the aura of an angel," according to a sign posted in Angel Oak Park. In fact, the tree's canopy "protects" or shades more than 17,000 square feet of earth. From tip to tip, its longest branch measures 187 feet.

But the Angel Oak actually adopted its name from the couple, Martha and Justin Angel, who had owned the property on which is stands approximately 300 years ago. The tree is estimated to be more than 400 years old-one of the oldest living things in the U.S.

Fortunately, visitors to Charleston, Kiawah or the Seabrook Islands can easily access the large, old tree-for free. And although its draping branches offer easy access to the tree's "angelic" canopy, Angel Oak Park staff encourages visitors to enjoy the tree's presence from the ground: "Help save the Angel Oak for future generations. Please do not climb or carve on the tree!" reads a sign onsite.

Appreciation for the Angel Oak's size, shape, structure and age reigns from all walks of life, but most visitors would have to agree that special, extraordinary live oak indeed deserves the attention it receives year round.

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