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Angel Oak — Johns Island, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Charleston County  |  Angel Oak

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Angel Oak

The Angel Oak on Johns Island, estimated to be around 400 years old – is the most venerated of the Lowcountry’s magnificent live oaks (Quercus virginiana). While its height of 65 feet may not seem impressive, live oaks are known for their majestic spread instead of their stature. These maritime trees have evolved to withstand the forceful winds of the coast, and therefore they are usually much shorter than their extensive horizontal reach. Yet with a canopy extending nearly 2,000 square yards, the Angel Oak does not need height to astound visitors who visit its ancient, outstretched boughs.

Angel Oak Tree

John Sabatier of Charleston, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The tree’s allure is both natural and cultural. Before her death in 1987, nationally-known Civil Rights activist Septima Clark told stories of her relationship with the oak, noting that during segregation, black families would picnic by the tree’s enormous boughs. She recalled participating in this tradition from around 1916 through 1929. At that time, it was considered sacred, and both children and adults respected the tree and its surrounding grounds.

Angel Oak Tree

Dawna Moore of Fernandina Beach, FL, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Today, many people still revere the impressive oak and its natural community as sacred. The tree’s name can be traced back to early owners of the land, Martha and Justis Angel, though the Angel Oak property was acquired by the City of Charleston in 1991. It recently faced the threat of development and the destruction of its surrounding forest.

Angel Oak Tree SC

Cyril Hehir of Hillsdale, New Jersey, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

While the Angel Oak itself was not in danger of being felled, arborists cautioned that the forest around the tree protects its giant root system, provides shelter from storms, and affords it adequate moisture and drainage.

Angel Oak Tree, limb detail

Nancy Boyd of Spartanburg, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Importantly, it also filters harmful pollutants before they reach the tree’s roots, bark, and leaves. Thus any development surrounding the acreage that encompasses the tree could be detrimental to its survival. Many feared that the extensive residential and commercial development approved by the City of Charleston would jeopardize the tree’s safety. Motivated by this threat, local citizens brought attention to the tree’s future and helped raise enough funds to purchase 18.7 acres immediately surrounding the tree – as well as an adjacent 17-acre parcel adjacent to that.

Angel Oak

Joy Rogers Hiott of Moncks Corner, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The South Carolina Environmental Law Project deserves credit for its pro bono work in engineering these purchases, as does the Lowcountry Open Land Trust for raising nearly $7 million to purchase the land that will ultimately help protect the Angel Oak. Several private organizations, individual donors, and local governments contributed to the preservation effort, which included a $2.5 million grant from the Charleston County Greenbelt Program and a $400,000 grant from the City of Charleston. Interestingly, many argue that the land would not have cost nearly so much had the City not adopted such high-density zoning in the first place – thus making it less attractive to developers.

Angel Oak Live Oak

Mark Wickliffe of Charleston © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Other donors include schools, churches, businesses, local municipalities, conservation groups, and civic organizations. A public park and interpretive trail are being planned for the newly-acquired land. The group closed on the land on March 15, 2014, signifying a major victory for conservationists and citizens who see the lowcountry as increasingly vulnerable to development.

Angel Oak Tree Detail

John Van Dalen of Charleston, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

In addition to the peace and beauty the Angel Oak brings to its visitors, the tree has also been recognized as a 2000 Millennium Tree and as the 2004 South Carolina Heritage Tree.

The Angel Oak is located at 3688 Angel Oak Road on Johns Island. It is 12 miles from downtown Charleston and includes a gift shop and picnic areas for visitors.

Reflections on the Angel Oak

Artist Michele Levani shares: “The Angel Oak, located in Angel Oak Park on Johns Island near Charleston, SC, is one of the most incredible landmarks of the Lowcountry! As an artist, I’m always looking for creative inspiration and that next great scene or subject to paint. The Angel Oak was my latest, yet oldest muse! It’s awe-inspiring and a must for travelers to see. I’ve recently began an artistic journey of “Painting the Town”, a Youtube series, exploring new adventures of Plein Air painting featuring Lowcountry landmarks. This Angel Oak painting, “Her Majesty” was the first in my series.”

Angel Oak Painting, Johns Island

Michele Levani of Summerville, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Angel Oak Info

Address: 3688 Angel Oak Road, Johns Island, SC 29455
GPS Coordinates: 32.717319,-80.080673

Angel Oak Map

Please Share Your Thoughts!

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119 Comments about Angel Oak

Tim Gibson says:
September 30th, 2019 at 3:56 pm

My great-grandfather on my mother’s side of the family was a Hensley and married Lucretia Angel. They lived in Burnsville, NC. I have been told we may be related to the family who owned the land where the Angel Oak is located. There were a number of Angel/Hensley families in or near Burnsville, NC. I have visited the Angel Oak many years ago. It is a beautiful tree. I am glad it is being preserved.

Sandi Harris says:
March 4th, 2019 at 1:25 am

We were in South Carolina last year for my granddaughter’s wedding, and had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Angel Oak. What a breathtaking sight! I was so awed that I teared up just walking up to it. I was overcome by the sheer majesty and history of it all. Amazing!

SC Picture Project says:
October 2nd, 2018 at 12:47 pm

Hey Barbara, we were in awe the first time we ever laid eyes on it ourselves! While we can’t provide prints of each image due to them being owned by the respective photographers, most of them do have their own websites which allow for print purchases. Under each photograph, where you see the photographer’s name, you can click their name and be taken to their website to look at purchasing options. If you come across one you like and they don’t have a website, let us know and we’ll gladly get you in touch!

Barbara Post says:
October 2nd, 2018 at 11:48 am

I was in awe the first time I saw the Angel Tree. Is there a chance I could get a frameable picture of it?

SC Picture Project says:
September 27th, 2018 at 6:56 pm

Hey Patty, we hope you enjoy your trip in November! Did you have a particular photo in mind? Many of the images have a photographer name linked underneath them, which will take you to their website for ordering. In the event one does not, let us know and we’ll get you in touch with the photographer. Thanks!

Patty Wiemeler says:
September 27th, 2018 at 1:01 pm

How beautiful the Angel Oak. Will be making a trip this November and will stop to see her. How can i obtain a picture for framing? Please let me know. Thank you in advance. Patty Wiemeler – Email Address: hpattycakes@yahoo.com

Lisa says:
September 24th, 2018 at 10:58 pm

I love what you are doing. This is a beautiful site and a tribute to your state and its people.

Janice Poss says:
September 26th, 2018 at 9:21 am

Yes, I believe trees and other plants do communicate. Good point. This tree in its beauty communicates nature’s wonder to us. We must preserve beauty at all costs.

Gary Munder says:
September 23rd, 2018 at 8:26 pm

Thanks to everyone who worked to save not only this beautiful tree but all of those around it. There have been studies recently that have proven trees “communicate” with each other in the same forest. The recent commercial on TV is far off base on the “oldest tree”. In Brunswick, GA, the Lover’s Oak Tree is supposedly 900 years old.


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