Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jekyll Island Live Oak May Be Biggest in U.S. Society's "Scout" Found the Huge Tree While He Was Searching for Another One

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jekyll Island Live Oak May Be Biggest in U.S. Society's "Scout" Found the Huge Tree While He Was Searching for Another One

Article excerpt

Byline: TERRY DICKSON

JEKYLL ISLAND -- A Jekyll Island live oak may stage a leafy coup to become the nation's largest of its species.

The multiple-stemmed tree is beside the island's airport and measures about 49 feet around. That could make it the top tree of an organizataion devoted to registering and preserving the huge oaks native to the South.

The Live Oak Society's reigning tree, with a girth of 38 feet, is the Seven Sisters Oak in Lewisburg, La., on the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

"It's not a pretty oak," the society's Dave Hanson said while standing beneath the Jekyll Island tree Monday, "and it's badly damaged, but it's still impressive."

The damage includes a huge scar of exposed wood on the side of the largest stem where a section broke off. Judging from its size, that stem could have matched the largest remaining stem. Limbs overhanging the airport fence also have been cut back.

Ironically, Hanson was looking for another big tree when he found the mammoth oak standing in plain site.

Since retiring as pastor of St. Simons United Methodist Church a few years ago, Hanson has been measuring and registering area trees with the Live Oak Society, an arm of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation Inc. Unable to find The Roof, a huge oak on Jekyll that turned out to be in someone's backyard, Hanson began asking around. Someone told him to check out a big oak inside the fence at Jekyll Island's airport. In checking out that tree, however, Hanson spotted a cluster of five trunks that he suspected could be growing from the same base.

It turned out they are, at least that's the view of Don Gardner, the certified arborist who is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent in Glynn County.

After a March 8 inspection, Gardner answered the question, "Is this one tree or a cluster?"

Gardner concluded it is one tree and, agreeing with Cliff Gawron of the Jekyll Island Authority, said it likely sprouted from the stump of a live oak harvested before 1840 for ship building. …

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