In the world of trees, the matter of “Who’s the Biggest” is a difficult one. Biggest in regards to what, exactly? In terms of height, the hands-down champions are the Coastal Redwood. The tallest of this species, in California, is about twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty. As far as sheer bulk, California’s General Sherman tree, a Sequoia, weighs in at 2,105 tons, and has a trunk circumference of 106 feet at the base. Seems like the west coast dominates the field, doesn’t it?
But wait… the southestern US has a champion too… our very own Southern Live Oak. No, it’s not the tallest. No, it doesn’t have the biggest tree trunk. BUT, it has the most dense wood of any native tree in the US. In fact, the ship “USS Constitution” was built of southern live oak. British Cannonballs bounced off the sides in the war of 1812, earning it the nickname “Old Ironsides.”
Another record for our Southern Live Oak is that of the “spread”… or how far out the branches expands. Southern Live Oaks aren’t very tall, as oaks go, reaching between 60-80 feet, but it grows just as wide. Whereas the majority of the wood of a Redwood tree or Sequoia tree is in their massive trunks, in the Live Oak, the majority of the wood is found in those long, strong branches.
As you walk around the park, don’t forget to stop now and then and look up into the many Live Oaks found here. Look at this awesome specimen. The branches nearly touch the ground on one side, allowing one a good up-close look at the leaves and the texture of the bark. Trace this branch to the trunk, walk around the trunk, and follow the opposite branch to the other side. Quite a spread, isn’t it? Recently measured, this particular specimen has a spread of approximately 106 feet. If you were to walk in a circle around the perimeter of these branches, you will cover a distance of about 333 feet. The crown therefore covers an area of the ground about 8,824 ft!
So next time anyone says the west coast has all the biggest trees, just remind them that we’ve got some champs down here in Florida too!