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Have you heard of the Angel Tree, located on Johns Island, South Carolina? This huge, ancient tree is a Lowcountry beauty. Considered the largest southern live oak tree east of the Mississippi, the Angel Tree, also called Angel Oak, is estimated as 400 years old, although some accounts place the age at closer to 1500 years.
Because of its location on Johns Island, I didn’t get to visit this magical site on my first trip to Charleston. This time, I stayed at Sailor’s Rest, just a few short miles from the property.
I enjoyed a visit to this magnificent tree. If you are in the Charleston area and have a rental car, take time to visit the island and this treasure.
The Angel Tree Stats
Angel Oak is 66.5 feet tall and has a trunk circumference of 28 feet. The Spanish moss draped canopy spreads over 17,200 square feet, creating sun dappled shade beneath the branches. One of the longest branches extends 187 feet from trunk to tip.
Some of the massive branches require support beneath them, to keep them from breaking. And some of the tree’s branches dive underground and then pop back up out of the ground as they continue to grow.
Over the centuries, the massive tree survived storms, floods and earthquakes. The only storm to cause any damage to Angel Oak was Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The storm surge brought high winds and caused flooding along nearby Ashley River and in the lowlands. Fortunately, the tree did not not receive severe damage and remained standing.
To prevent any housing developments near Angel Tree, the Lowcountry Land Trust preserved 17 acres around the tree to protect it.
The Tree’s Name
The tree gets its name from plantation owner Justus Angel. Originally the tree grew on the property of Abraham Waight, who received the acreage as part of a land grant in 1717.
Abraham owned several plantations on Johns Island. The Angel Tree property remained in the Waight family for four generations. It transferred to Justus Angel as part of a wedding settlement when Justus and Martha Waight married.
Angel Tree is Haunted
There are many ghost stories associated with the Angel Tree.
Native Americans reportedly gathered beneath the sprawling tree and made it a sacred burial ground. It’s believed that the spirits of Native Americans protect the tree.
There are also stories of slaves being hung from the thick branches of Angel Oak. A curse was put on the tree, because of the violence that happened there.
And in more recent years, people report seeing glowing lights and faces in the branches and beings of light surrounding the tree at night.
Visiting the Angel Tree
Angel Tree is now owned by the City of Charleston. Admission to the fenced off park is free, although donations are accepted to help preserve the tree.
The park is located at 3688 Angel Oak Road on Johns Island and open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Sunday. The road to the Angel Tree is narrow and a bit rough so drive slowly. Parking spots are located outside the fenced area, with handicap parking available within the park.
There is a gift shop located within the park, along with porta-potties and picnic tables. Photographing the tree is allowed, with handheld cameras or cell phones. No tripods are allowed. Dog are allowed only in the picnic area. Permits are required for weddings and photoshoots, through the City of Charleston Parks and Recreation Department.
Signs near the tree list the rules:
- no sitting, climbing or leaning on the tree
- no sitting beneath the tree
- blankets are not allowed on the ground around the tree
- food and drinks are not allowed near the tree
- no props of any kind near the tree
My Experience with the Angel Tree
I arrived mid afternoon, after spending time in Charleston. Although there were other people in the park, I had no problem finding a spot to park the car outside the fence. It’s a short walk into the park, past the gift shop, and to the tree.
The heat and humidity of the day seemed to fade away standing in the cool shade of that incredible tree. Angel Tree occupies its space with grace and a kind of ancient wisdom. Visitors spoke quietly or remained silent. All of us walked slowly and reflectively around the tree, weaving in and out of the massive branches growing along the ground.
The whole area felt sacred and somewhat otherworldly. Angel Tree looks like a prop from a Lord of the Rings movie, something akin to the giant Ents, and yet it is a living organism that continues to grow.
Although you cannot deface the tree in any way, you can lightly touch a branch. Beneath the rough bark on the southern live oak branches, energy hums in spite of the tree’s many years.
While I strolled around the tree I noticed an artist painting on a canvas near the picnic area and people sitting quietly on picnic tables, watching the tree.
I spent about an hour in the park, which was plenty of time to walk around the area, snap photos and visit the gift shop.
Have You Visited the Angel Tree?
Have you ever stopped by the Angel Tree in South Carolina? Would you like to?
I’m glad I had the opportunity on this trip to check this site off my travel list. The tree is beautiful, holy and inspiring and well worth a visit. I hope it continues to grow and remains strong and vibrant.
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