Monday, February 23, 2009

Live Oaks, Growing

 
Live oaks don't lose their luster in the fall. Southern Live Oaks, or Quercus virginia hold onto their leaves until spring and shed them just before their new crop arrives. They're very sturdy trees - they may drop their branches in a hurricane but rarely get uprooted and seem to thrive in lots of different soils. Left to themselves, they can live a long time. One of the oaks on my family's farm has a trunk equal to its cousin in size, the famous Angel Oak. The City of Charleston estimates that the Angel is over 1400 years old. We suspect the family oak has seen a lot of summers pass by too.

Live oaks remind me of some of the best parts of my childhood and driving down a road covered by an oak tunnel of branches and Spanish Moss sends me back to summer and that carefree feeling I used to get when I knew that ahead of us waited a dozen cousins, late night card games, all the tomatos, shrimp, and m&ms we could eat and a bookcase full of Readers Digest Condensed Books to catch up on.

I used to try to draw the oaks too, and my grandmother still has one rendition hanging up in her dining room. Every time I visit her, I see it and think that I need to try again. So each trip to the Island finds me taking dozens of pictures to use as models. This year, this was one of my favorites and I think I'm going to use it as the basis for my next try. Details to come.

9 comments:

Kelly said...

That is so beautiful.

Barrett Bonden said...

I believe they don't get uprooted because they have what Americans call "tap roots": the title of a movie starring Van Heflin which may even predate your parents. Oaks are great to climb and even offer places where you can loll in safety, recovering from one of those all-night card games you refer to. Such moral turpitude.

Julia said...

You are right - the tap root is a wonderful anchor for oaks. Their roots helped them survive Hurricane Hugo, back in 1989, though all the downed branches took months to clean up. And oaks are also ideal for tree houses - our cousins had forts across the yard on them, and my great uncle still has one in the tree that has been his since he was a kid (my grandmother was very influenced by Little Women, so all her brothers and sisters had their own tree ;-).

I'd never heard of Tap Roots before - will have to do some digging on YouTube to see if any of its footage is online somewhere!

eurolush said...

I love those old southern oaks, too. They're so graceful and lovely...especially when they're full of spanish moss. Sigh.

How nice that they evoke such happy childhood memories for you. Your family oak tree sounds amazing...1400 years old! That's incredible.

Looking forward to hearing more about your drawing...

countrypeapie said...

Lovely photo. Live Oaks seem to capture that combination of stateliness and decline that is so characteristic of the South.

Julia said...

Funny about the decline, I haven't thought about the South in that way for a while, but do know what you mean. I'm wondering if living in a much older city somehow resets my time a bit, so that the South seems relatively young to me these days!

marja-leena said...

I remember being in awe of these trees on a trips to Atlanta region and New Orleans. Always curious why they are called 'live', as if all other oaks were dead.

Julia said...

Good question - they are called live because they are nearly evergreen, and, though I've never seen it myself, when they are cut for timber they're known to grow sprouts when still uncured. Another fun fact - even though live oak wood is extremely dense it doesn't make great furniture wood because of all the swirls and bends the wood develops as it matures.

Lucy said...

1400 year is astonishing isn't it!

This would be good for 'Festival of the Trees'...