Tag Archives: Georgia Trees & Shrubs

Live Oaks of Broadfield Plantation, Glynn County

The grove of Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) marking the entrance to Hofwyl House and its dependencies at Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation is one of the great natural public spaces on the Georgia coast.

While the structures are a significant resource, the real attraction for many are the oaks located all over the property. Individually, the trees are objects of awe and wonder; collectively, they’re a natural cathedral.

As is common with many Live Oaks on the coast, some specimens appear to have been uprooted.

These giants are miraculous in their curious ability to grow this way, often living and prospering for centuries.

Spanish Moss is the natural ornament most associated with the Live Oak, and it’s especially abundant here.

There’s also lots of Resurrection Fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides).

Some of these trees are estimated to be between 500-800 years old.

Two are members of the Louisiana Live Oak Society Tree Registry, which documents significant specimens throughout the Southeast.

National Register of Historic Places

National Champion Eastern Red Cedar, Coffee County

In Lone Hill United Methodist Cemetery near West Green, you can find an Eastern red cedar as big as a Live oak. [Maybe a younger Live oak, but you get the point].  Its age is unknown, but since red cedars are notoriously slow growers, it’s likely it was already of respectable size when some of the early congregants of Lone Hill buried their loved ones in its shade. As it has grown, it has begun to gently displace some of those graves.

American Forests, the non-profit organization that certifies big trees, has declared this Eastern red cedar*, [Juniperus virginiana] the National Champion. This means it’s the largest known example of the species. Recorded dimensions are: Height-57′. Crown spread-75′. Circumference-234″.

*- Also written as redcedar or red-cedar.

Altamaha River Floodplain, Long County

Five days after the storm, snow remains in shady spots, like this swamp in the Altamaha floodplain.

South Georgia Snowstorm, 2018



Male Longleaf Pine, Ben Hill County

Longleaf Pine Pinus palustris Bloom Male Cone Formation Ben Hill County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2016

Most people are familiar with pine cones. But those are the woody, female cones. Not everyone would recognize this herbaceous bloom as the male cone, but it’s a beautiful thing in its own right. The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) was once the dominant tree of the South, covering 92 million acres throughout the region. Today, it survives on just 3 million scattered acres.  Responsible landowners have begun to plant them in an effort to restore habitat and state agencies throughout the South manage them on public lands.  For a beautiful illustrated work on the subject, check out Longleaf, Far as the Eye Can See, from the University of North Carolina Press. For a volume that speaks lyrically of the ecology of our wonderful South Georgia forests and the human culture they’ve always supported, read my friend Janisse Ray’s Ecology of a Cracker Childhood.





Live Oak, Gascoigne Bluff

Spanish-moss-draped Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) are emblematic of the Southern coastal region and a great place to see them is Gascoigne Bluff, adjacent to Epworth By The Sea. There’s a public park here with ample free parking. The oak grove is quite impressive, but perhaps not nearly as impressive as what a visitor would have seen 200 years or more in the past. The timber used in the construction of the famed USS Constitution, better known as Old Ironsides, was cut at this bluff.

Alapaha River Scrublands, Irwin County

Dirt Road Alapaha River Scrublands Floodplain Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Much of the land surrounding the upper reaches of the Alapaha River is characterized by sandy soils, dunes and scrub oaks. They’re most often encountered by hunters and fishermen but they’re a magnificent ecosystem, worthy of exploring when you can get access. Several endangered species call these scrublands home.

Alapaha River Sand Dunes Scrublands Fragile Ecosystem Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

The Alapaha originates in southern Dooly County and flows southerly through or along the borders of Crisp, Wilcox, Turner, Ben Hill, Irwin, Tift, Berrien, Atkinson, Lanier, Lowndes, and Echols in Georgia and Hamilton County in Florida. The Willacoochee and Alapahoochee Rivers are its two main tributaries. It flows into the Suwanee River 1o miles south of Jasper, Florida.

Alapaha River Scrublands Irwin County GA Sunset Moss Covered Oak Trees Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is ubiquitous.

Fallen Oak beside Alapaha River Canal Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

The remains of a weather-damaged oak lie beside the banks of a man-made canal near the river.

Alapaha River Sand Bar Scrublands Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

The Alapaha isn’t widely known beyond the counties it embraces except by a few kayakers and canoeists, yet it courses 202 miles from its headwaters to its confluence with the Suwanee. Its levels are increasingly strained by modern agricultural practices in a region considered to harbor some of the most productive farmland in the state. It’s particularly important to me as it’s where I first went fishing in a boat with my father as a very young boy. I may be foolish to think so, but I believe people who live near the river will always have a strong desire to protect it.

Lover’s Oak, Brunswick

Located at the corner of Prince and Albany Streets, this tree is said to be over 900 years old, though that may be a bit exaggerated. It derives its name from the legend that Native Americans met here in courtship. It was recognized in 1987 by the National Arborists Association as having been alive at the time of the signing of the United States Constitution.

Brunswick Old Town Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Cypress Swamp, Waynesville

Waynesville GA Brantley County Cypress Pond Swamp Coreopsis Natural Area Picture Image Photograph Copyright © Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

Wind Worn Oak, Jekyll Island

The effects of wind and sand over time stunt the growth of the trees along the shoreline and create magical patterns. This one near the middle of the island was shot at night.

Wild Pear Tree in Bloom, Tattnall County


Old timers in South Georgia called wild pears (Pyrus pyraster) “hog” pears because the hard fruit takes so long to ripen that the only creature said to eat it is a hog. They are often seen as a first sign of springtime in the Deep South. They were once to be found on every farm in South Georgia; my great-grandmother made wonderful fried pear tarts when they ripened, usually in late summer or early autumn.