Is this not the weirdest, ugliest tree you’ve seen in a while? It’s the perfect graphic for a haunted forest. Given its grotesque appearance you might wonder where the romance comes in – well read on.
It’s the 12th Century and the dust from the turmoil in Europe has settled. Viking invaders have become permanent residents, and crusading Catholic knights are riding away to regain the Holy Land. In Asia, the powerful Khmer Empire is flourishing in Cambodia, and Angkor Wat is under construction. And in the sandy soil near the coast of what is now Southeast Georgia, a small acorn sprouts and reaches toward the sky. Nine hundred years later that live oak tree still stands.
Any near-millennial tree commands respect, and of course, deserves a name. And the Creek Indians, indigenous to the area long before Europeans arrived, provided one. Local lore says that young Native American lovers would meet under the “Lover’s Oak” to kiss and swear their love for each other. The ancient tree is growing (inconveniently and un-romantically) in a median strip in downtown Brunswick.
Imagine the history this tree has witnessed. This turn-of-the-century postcard shows it standing like Tolkien’s Treebeard smack dab in the path of a streetcar line. Strong and defiant to the end, the mighty oak forces the streetcars to go around.
Living 900 years is no small thing, particularly for an oak tree in the middle of an area famous for ship building.
Because of the tree’s short height and low-hanging branches, lumber from live oak was specifically used to make curved structural members of the hull, such as knee braces (single-piece, inverted L-shaped braces that spring inward from the side and support a ship’s deck). In such cuts of lumber, the line of the grain would fall perpendicularly to lines of stress, creating structures of exceptional strength. –Wikipedia
It’s amazing to me that this tree has survived at all. How on earth did it escape someone’s fireplace or the shipbuilder’s axe? It could be that by the time the boat builders arrived, its large size made it too difficult to work with. But whatever the reason, it’s an impressive sight, and a testament that strength and beauty don’t always go hand in hand.
P.S. This post wraps up the Weird and Wonderful series. It’s been fun for us, and hopefully for you as well. It’s unlikely that weirdness and wonder will disappear from our world, so we’re keeping the idea in our quiver for future posts. Watch this space.