Monday, March 14, 2011

Live Oaks

"... she probably meant the trail through the live oak forest ..."

Is there one through the dead oak forest?

"... the wood from live oak trees was used to build Old Ironsides ..."

How did they keep them alive?

"... the British claimed all the live oak trees as property of the king ..."

Who got the dead ones?

-- Rangers at the Cumberland Island National Seashore

-- Thoughts of yours truly

Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana

Until recently, I was unfamiliar with the term "live oak". So when the friendly rangers at the Cumberland Island National Seashore used the term, I figured it was a colloquialism.

Rene Noe, a Friendly Ranger

So when I asked Rene, who had been a ranger at Cumberland Island for thirty years, what species they were and she responded, "live oak", it was a bit of a "who's on first" moment. Eventually we got it sorted out. "Live Oak" is a term used to describe any oak that is evergreen, keeping its leaves year round. Southern Live Oak is the common name for the species on the island.

The trees have huge squat trunks and a massive system of branches, some which grow down to the ground for support, spreading widely. Great for climbing! (Of course I did.)


More Branches

So while I understand the name, trees without leaves appearing dead, while those with leaves appearing live, I think live is a doubly excellent name because these trees are alive with other organisms.

The most notable example is Spanish Moss, an epiphyte, that while not a parasite can have ill effects on the host tree. It blocks the light that would otherwise reach the tree's leaves and can add a substantial weight load, devastating in a hurricane.

But it sure is pretty.

Just Add Water

Ferns, such as this resurrection fern, and mistletoe also find a home on the branches. Adding to both the biomass and beauty of the tree.

The dead parts of the live oak also support life, fungi as shown here, but also insects, squirrels (I had one very upset with me for some reason. Alas it wouldn't pose for a picture.), and woodpeckers (I heard, but did not see, pileated and red-bellied).

An Easy One

Other birds make use of the trees. (I delighted a group of birders from Michigan by ID'd a mocking bird, an apparently rare bird in them there parts.)

Delighted Birder

There are even plants growing in the ridges in the bark.


And the forest is home for a variety of animals. Including ...




I spent the better part of seven hours exploring and experienced so very little of the island. There are great sandy beaches, empty of people, populated with only birds. Miles and miles to walk in splendid solitude.

The center of the island is a natural area, no road, no cars, no bikes, no homes. I could spend several days wandering there.

There are wetlands to kayak.

Ruins and historical sites to visit.

There is even a bed and breakfast on the island. (Pricy though, cheapest room $395/night. Maybe when I win the lottery ... ). So next visit it'll be the camp ground for me.

I can't wait to get back and explore some more.

Come On, Let's Go


LauraHinNJ said...

I told you it'd be wonderful, silly!

I've only been twice, but each year as October approaches, I try to figure how to see more of Cumberland...

I think you're right... you have to camp and have days to wander and explore without the worry of meeting the ferry at day's end.

More stories, please!

: )

Did you find the old graveyard beside the marsh trail? What about the "car" graveyard beside the Dungeness ruins?

(it feels really wonderful to share the wonder of Cumberland, btw)

LauraHinNJ said...

I LOVE Resurrection Fern btw... been meaning to do a post about it forever... the coolest little plant!

Chesney said...

The oak trees are so cool...I have never seen trees shaped like that. Outstanding pics once again!

MevetS said...

Laura, I'll never doubt you again.

Maybe I found them. Maybe I didn't.

( smiles )


Tammy, thanks.

Lené Gary said...

What a great collection! I especially like the little armadillo! :) And the yellow splashed bird rump. And the live oak trees (and the explanation about their name). And the moss. And the ferns that grow on branches (how cool is that?). Looks like a trip full of treasures. Thanks for sharing some of them with us.

Guy said...


I really enjoyed your photos on the live oaks. My wife and I have travelled to Charleston SC for a conference she attends, a number of times. The first time I went I really wanted to see a live oak because I love the Sidney Lanier poem The Marshes of Glynn. It took us some time to realize we had seen them because the leaves were so different from the oaks we were used to. We finally found an acorn which helped (I also googled). You pictures have brought back many happy memories and made us wish we had been able to spend more time exploring the countryside.

May I link to your blog?


MevetS said...

Lené, my pleasure. I'm glad you liked them.

Guy, thank you. Yes, the leaves were unlike any oak I'd previously encountered. And I'd be flattered if you linked to my blog.