Preserving Live Oak Heritage
The native oaks of North Carolina are the most visible icons that connect us to our natural heritage. These living giants provide us with shade, beauty, history and a sense of place, while cleaning our air and water and providing food and shelter for multitudes of animals. The Live Oak’s large protective canopy provides a habitat for numerous varieties of birds, insects, and mammals, many of whom forage for its acorns. Sweet, tapered acorns produced by the trees are eaten by birds and mammals, including sapsuckers, mallards, wild turkey, squirrels, black bears, and deer. Other birds make use of the moss that frequently hangs from the branches to construct nests.
The Live Oak was prized in early America for its usefulness in shipbuilding. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the US Government would hire crews to go ‘Live Oaking.’ As a result of this extreme deforestation, nearly all old-growth Live Oaks were gone by the late 1800’s. Therefore, if you’re fortunate enough to be in the proximity of one of these amazing trees, then you know just how important it is to maintain these treasures for generations to come.
Historic Live Oaks (Quercus Virginiana) are majestic trees that are emblems of the South -- named "live" because they are an evergreen oak rather than a deciduous (loses its leaves every year; has a dormant winter period) tree as most oaks are. When given enough room to grow, their sweeping limbs plunge toward the ground before shooting upward, creating an impressive array of branches.
Crowns of the largest Historic Live Oaks reach diameters of 150 feet—nearly large enough to encompass half of a football field. On average, the crown spread is 80 feet and the height is 50 feet. Branches usually stem from a single trunk, which can grow to 5 or 6 feet in diameter. Historic Live Oaks are fast-growing trees, but their growth rate slows with age. They may reach close to their maximum trunk diameter within 70 years. The oldest Live Oaks in the country are estimated to be between several hundred to more than a thousand years old.
Many Nursery Live Oaks currently being grown today -- particularly in Southeastern states such as Florida -- have been genetically altered to form new styles such as "Cathedral" and "High Rise". Commercial landscapers often have no choice but to purchase these cookie-cutter, unnatural looking, oaks. Oaks that fail to offer the majestic width of the historic style we've grown so accustomed to.
Even worse, many of these same nurseries are using traditional, container growing methods, which notoriously lead to root girdling and unhealthy trees. They are quick to boast a 10-20 year lifespan, yet are shy to mention the pro-longed, detrimental harm this is causing. Over the next 25-50 years, these precious Live Oaks begin choking themselves off and can often die prematurely.
We are raising our Live Oaks using the best practices available. Our goal is to propagate Heirloom Live Oaks so that the history and genetics will continue for many generations to come. We thus grow our trees from special acorns we pick, often from the most iconic trees in our area. We grow many of our oaks in the field to imitate the natural process, and when we do grow in containers, we use ones that air-prune our roots and thus support healthy root structure.
Preserving the lineage of Historic Live Oaks is our passion, and we are excited to share it with you!