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Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Posted by purpleinopp 8b AL (My Page) on
Mon, Jul 16, 12 at 12:02

This tree is in Geneva, AL, and it is quite a commanding presence. (No, I haven't been to the redwood forest. I know this tree isn't in league with those.) Certainly not the tallest, but the oldest/biggest tree I've ever noticed. The neighborhood around the downtown area has a LOT of HUGE trees also, taller ones but none I've seen to compare to the trunk girth of the pictured tree. If you're ever in the area and like big old trees, it's worth a little side-trip into Geneva.

Frustratingly, I couldn't find a single acorn, but admit I didn't forage the leafy areas near the ground because there was poison ivy in too many places for risking any contact.

The ground is cleared and mowed except where the branches touch the ground, where the previously fallen leaves are left alone. There was a pile of non-oak-tree plant material next to the tree when we visited, so apparently someone makes an effort to cut away other plants without disturbing those areas with a mower or weeder. Truly an example of why live oaks must be pruned periodically if one is growing near/in/over a house/yard/driveway/whatever where allowing the limbs to ground themselves would require the abandonment of the property.

There are 2 kinds of "living witness" trees that I could determine with the aid of the good ol' WWW. The first kind is when trees are/were used as property markers. The second kind is indicated by the plaque at the base of this incredible tree. If you can't see it clearly enough below, it says, in all caps, "The Alabama Forestry Commission recognizes this tree as a "Living Witness." This tree lived here at the time of the signing of the United States Constitution and continues to grow with our nation in strength and character." Maddeningly, it doesn't give the name of the tree, but it's one of the live oaks.

There are at least 4 trees in AL designated as living witness trees of the second kind. I've tried unsuccessfully to find information about the "living witness" tree designation/recognition program in regard to being an AL or national entity. The AL For. Comm. website doesn't say a word about it. I tried searching for "living witness trees" but most of the results I got were related to a book by a similar name about TX trees. A search for "constitution trees" did not yield what I was looking for - a list of these trees and their locations for any particular state or a national list or register.

Any comments, info, further questions welcome!

For scale, my son is 7.

ALL of the benches face AWAY from the tree. Um...........

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

  • Posted by acer 6b western NC (My Page) on
    Mon, Jul 16, 12 at 12:13

I agree- the plaque really should identify the species. We care about what we know. Perhaps a smaller one could be installed under or near the first. But, what a tree! Thanks for sharing.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Very nice tree and thanks for taking the time to post all the pictures.

If life ever has me move down south it will be to a residence with a large Live Oak

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

It's a Quercus virginiana.....Live Oak. That's the only tree it could be.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Wow. Thanks for posting! Great pics.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Yeah, that's cool.

Anyone ever see the banyan tree-I don't recall the exact species-in Thomas Edison's old place in Fort Myers, FL? That one'll have you gawking too.


RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

I love this species of oak and tried to grow it here in zone 6 Pa. It won't survive our winters of course. The nearly identical Quercus Fusiformis looks like it except for the smaller size, though when really old it gets rather large and spreading too. So I planted lots of them and hope to live long enough to see them get a decent size. The Q Fusiformis is zone 6 hardy.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Thanks for the inputs!

I would like to see that banyan tree!

Does anyone have any info about a list of AL Living Witness trees? Or a national list?

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Texas has a list like that, too. One of the largest in the state, that used to have the title of largest (and a plaque on it, too), is at a hamburger place. They have tables under it, on a platform, and take good care of it.

I used to own property outside Houston that had one nearly that large on it. Looking at your pics brings back memories. Sigh.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

purple, here's a link for you to check out:

Here is a link that might be useful: Big Live Oaks

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

  • Posted by mori1 5/6 KS (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 19, 12 at 14:25

Wow these trees are beautiful.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Thanks for the comments, and the link, Sam. Those are some impressive trees!

I'm starting to think nobody has given any thought to this "living witness" thing since 1987. I can find zero info about it.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

American Forests is a nationwide non-profit which maintains a database for large trees. I don't know much about them but here is their current national champion for live oak:

Here is a link that might be useful: American Forests

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

  • Posted by dis_ z9 CA (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 28, 12 at 2:18


The tree in the first pic is utterly gorgeous. I love they way the branches touch the ground.

This year I visited Sequoia National park (amazingly massive) and Jedidiah Smith redwoods(amazingly tall): I would still pull over and get out to have a look at that oak.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Glad you liked the pics, dis. It's all ONE tree!

Interesting link, Sam, thanks!

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

There doesn't seem to be any official list of these trees, and the plaques given to them in 1987 don't all say the same thing. Some are referred to as Constitution trees, some as Living Witness trees. I did find the list below on a tree forum. Sorry it's 'messy.'

The tree I started this discussion with isn't on this list (so I added it, #62.) I visited it yesterday to see how it fared the ice storm in January. Looks great! I wish I could live "inside" it. Pic below taken yesterday.

I can only assume this list is accurate, IDK. Does anyone "know" any of these trees personally?

1 White Oak Quercus alba Knoxville TN
2 White Oak Quercus alba Snellville GA
3 White Oak Quercus alba Powell TN
4 Swamp & White Oak hybrid Queckus-Jackiana Wayne PA
5 Oak Cliff Country Club Bur Oak Quercus macrocarpa Dallas TX
6 Oak Cliff Country Club Pecan Carya illinoensis Dallas TX
7 White Oak Quercus alba Brinklow MD
8 North Ridge Country Club Live Oak Quercus agrifolia Fair Oaks CA
9 Gordonsville VA White Oak
10 California Sycamore Platanus californicum Goleta CA Sizzler Restaurant
11 Charles Towne Landing State Park Live Oak Quercus virginiana Charleston SC
12 American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis Route 47 Sunderland MA
13 American Basswood Tilia americana 833 West Main St.. Lexington KY Lexington Cemetary
14 White Oak Quercus alba Tooles Bend Road Knoxville TN
15 Post Oak Quercus stellata Heritage Park Grapevine TX
16 Pecan Carya illinoensis Heritage Park Grapevine TX
17 Chinkapin Oak Castanopsis chrysophylla ? Dallas TX
18 Pecan Carya illinoensis Dallas TX
19 Live Oak Haig Point Plantation Daufuskie Island SC
20 Live Oak Haig Point Plantation Daufuskie Island SC
21 Quercus alba 4344 Columbia Road Elliot City MD
22 White Oak Katonah Memorial Park Katonah NY
23 White Oak Quercus alba var. Latiloba Leal Park 303 W. University Av. Urbana IL
24 Live Oak Quercus virginiana 3100 White Settlement Road Greenwood Memorial Park Fort Worth TX
25 White Oak Quercus alba Corner of Morris & Willow St. Lansing MI
26 Live Oak Quercus virginiana Carswell Av. Baptist Village Homes Waycross GA
27 Live Oak Quercus virginiana Exchange Plantation County Road 52 Plantersville SC
28 Water Oak Moyoc NC
29 White Oak Butler PA
30 Ponderosa Pine Pinus ponderosa Big Pine Campground Siskiyou National Forest 13 miles up Taylor Creek Road off Merlin-Galice Road
31 Valley Oak Quercus lobata PG7E Geysers Project 26 miles NE of Healdsburg
32 Coast Live Oak Quercus agrifolia St. Helena Hospital Sanitarium Road Deer Park CA
33 Valley Oak Quercus lobata 2000 Main St. St. Helena CA
34 Sugar Maple Rt. 82 Norwitch CT
35 Valley Oak Quercus lobata W. Hwy 99 Southern Pacific Railroad median strip on East centerpiece of town.
36 Bur Oak Quercus macrocarpa 1421 Milwaukee Ave. Glenview IL
37 Live Oak Corner of Crawford & Monroe St. Thomasville GA
38 White Oak 3432 Brookwood Drive Fairfax VA
39 Sycamore Platanus occidentalis 47 E. LaCross Ave. Lansdown PA
40 White Oak White Farm Rt. 206 Near Bruere's Hill
41 Coastal Redwood Sequoia sempervirens San Francisquito Creek Palo Alto CA.
42 White Oak 1545 S. Green Road South Euclid OH
43 Red Oak Martin Luther King Blvd. Cleveland OH
44 American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis West Orange Community House West Orange NJ
45 Red Oak 68 Morris Ave. Morristown NJ
46 Valley Oak Quercus lobata 400 First St. Healdsburg CA
47 Bur Oak Quercus macrocarpa South Pavillion Oak Grove Park Plano TX
48 White Oak Oakledge Park Flynn Ave. Burlington VT
49 Black Oak Main activity pavillion City Park Cambridge OH
50 American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis Hopkins Hall Ohio State University Campus Columbus OH
51 American Beech Howard County Community College Little Patuxent Parkway Columbia MD
52 White Oak Route 539 Cream Ridge NJ
53 White Oak 8820 Brookfield Ave. behind City Hall Brookfield IL
54 Bristlecone Pine Cedar Breaks National Monument Cedar City UT
55 Swamp White Oak 2110 Oakmont Upper Arlington OH
56 Coast Live Oak Quercus agrifolia Irvine County Park Orange County CA
57 Poplar Populus fremontii Sunset Park 2575 Sunset Road
58 Bur Oak Vilas Park Madison WI
59 Bur Oak Quercus macrocarpa Rural Route 2 Fithian IL
60 Live Oak 399 Riberia St. St. Augustine FL
61 Southern Live Oak Loch Haven Park Princton St. Orlando FL

62 Live Oak, Geneva, AL, Fowler Park

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Love that L.O. Although Redwoods are larger in wood mass, for me, the fact that much of the mass is hard to see in the forest, without looking upwards for eons of feet, Live oaks are more dramatic being spread out horizontally and graceful. Yes I am romanticizing a tree. If I grew up down south, and they were everywhere, I likely wouldn't think them a big deal. I am looking forward to seeing how much of my Live oak "late drop" hybrids get new leaves. I know the 2 yr old ones will come back, but with some top die-back after this B*Tch of a winter.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

  • Posted by jcalhoun 8b Mobile County AL (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 12, 14 at 0:35


There is a live oak on Dauphin Island,AL that is not quite as big but has several braches propped up like that one. There is a nice park there.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

  • Posted by beng z6 western MD (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 12, 14 at 6:41

The 'Wye' national champion eastern white oak in MD @ 600 yrs old was similar in size & spread w/branches on the ground. Felled by summer thunderstorms around 2000.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Live oaks are gorgeous in the right setting.

Not sure why people insist on planting them in small yards, unless they own stock in tree pruning companies.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

I have a framed photo of the Why oak with a woman standing by it, by her clothing it may be at the latest in the 50's or 60's. I have seen a Chestnut oak with large branches that reach out like the Q. Alba and the (sort of) Q. Virginiana. It was listed under the Virginia champion Chestnut oak. It was super massive because it has 2 leaders, which I would correct on mine, if they had it. I am hoping for many years of great growth on my Live oak "late drop" trees and for my other oaks, the Q. Alba and the Quercus Prinus/ Montana, or Chestnut oak. The Chestnut oak is a fast grower, maybe when I'm an old hag, it will be pretty large. I have 2 Q. Prinus/Montana and 2 Q.Alba in my yard several Q. Virginiana "late drop" also.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Great Live Oak, my live oaks will never be that grand as they are Quercus Fusiformis and just barely borderline fr the most northern range, but they will get big.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

In Rio Frio Texas, is the US Champion Q. Fusiformis. Maybe the acorns I sent you will be the same as my :late drop" live oaks, and will grow faster for you. My largest one got 2- 3 ft last growing season.

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Purple, from the link to the Geneva Public Library:

snip- "The day would end with everyone climbing the "Big Ole' Oak". One year, no one who had
been at the Junction, except one, showed up for classes on Monday. Even the seventh
grade teacher, Virginia Lee, was home with a case of poison ivy from climbing the tree.
A few years ago, hundreds gathered under the tree in support of the
Choctawhatchee-Pea Rivers Association in an effort to get navigational improvements for
the rivers. Senator John Sparkman was the guest speaker.
Today, we have returned to Old Town Festival on the Rivers, sponsored by the Club
and the Geneva Chamber of Commerce. The annual Festival starts when the River Rats
meet Billy Bowlegs with his flotilla from Fort Walton, Florida, on Friday.
On April 28, 1984, The Big Ole Oak, in a dedication ceremony with C.W. Moody,
head of the Alabama State Forrestry Commission, Montgomery, Alabama, was placed on
the Historical Register, State of Alabama, by the Alabama Historical Commission, as a
Historical Tree for its beauty, size and age.
The tree is also registered with the International Association of Live oak Trees. The
tree species is Quercus Virginiana Mill, 19 feet, 9 1/2 inches in circumference with a limb
spread of 168 feet, is estimated to be over 200 years old..."

Here is a link that might be useful: Big Ole Oak

RE: Really BIG tree, a 'living witness' (pics)

Hey, thanks for that link! I'm skeptical about this part:

"If anyone in Geneva said the "big ole oak", everybody knew he was talking about the big oak at the junction of the Choctawhatchee and Pea Rivers, located at what is now known as Robert Fowler Park. The trunk of the picturesque tree has a grandeur limb spread of 168 feet. Measured on November 13,1981, this tree is thought to be the largest live oak tree in the world"

And this does not tell the standard to which this could apply - height, spread, volume of wood... has an interesting article on the subject, lots of great pics.

This article discusses a claim to the largest live oak in TX.

And I did find this list, the National Register of Big Trees, though this is not connected to "constitution" or "living witness" tree designation.

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