The fairytale-esque Angel Oak tree in Charleston, South Carolina, is thought to be one of the oldest living oak trees east of the Mississippi River. It stands 65 feet (20 meters) tall and measures 28 feet in circumference. An area of 17,000 square feet is shaded by its tentacular crown. The largest branch reaches 187 feet. Estimated to be between 400 and 500 years old, this southern live oak has survived several hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.
It was damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 but has recovered and continues to grow. Southern live oaks are native to the lowland country of the coastal Carolinas. They tend to grow more outward than upward but, due to their age, the Angel Oak has done both. Its branches reach in all directions, with some driving underground and then growing back up above the surface. Its name comes from the Angel Estate, owned by couple Justus Angel and Martha Waight Angel. However, local legends say the ghosts of former slaves appear as angels around the tree. The tree is now the property of the City of Charleston. Recently, a plan for apartment development near the Angel Oak has been scrutinized and fought against by the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League.
They argue that the development would alter the groundwater flow to the tree and clear the nearby forests whose root systems are intimately related to the Angel Oak. The Angel Oak is featured in the novel The Heart of a Child by Emily Nelson. The area also hosts several artistic and social events throughout the spring and summer seasons.
Know Before You Go
There are no shuttles to the tree park, but there is a very large parking space and the tree is free to view and enjoy! Check the park's website for hours.