Calling out to unseen specters, this live oak has secrets to divulge… Photo by Rita Thiel

Claiming an average height of 65.5 feet and limb spread of 88.5 feet, live oaks come in a range of shapes and sizes.

By Rita Thiel

Secreted away in the hidden backyards, dirt lanes and dead-end paths of Ocracoke are the hidden gems, the “other oaks of Ocracoke.”

The southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) is the stalwart of the southern trees, with a specimen as old as 1,000 years growing in Texas. It has long been revered owing to its draping, twisted limbs, rugged, ridged bark and dense, ship-worthy wood.

A back yard live oak is the perfect spot for a tree house. Photo: C. Leinbach

Ocracoke is home to several well-known live oaks, chronicled in Phillip Howard’s Village Craftsman blog  

Easily seen along Howard Street and frequently photographed, these famous oaks receive their accolades.

But the island has many live oaks—little known yet curious and grand in appearance.

They are the gentle giants, concealed behind private residences and on property that most will not have the privilege to see.

Live oaks are considered deciduous evergreens that lose their leaves in early spring as the new leaves are emerging.

Steadfastly spreading their limbs, they twist and turn to get the most fortuitous sunlight and find their place on this sometimes harsh and unpredictable island.

Stalwart witnesses to years gone by and times still to come, they, too, have stories to tell of ship-building days and pirate encampments.

To see some of the island’s ancient live oaks, take a stroll through Springer’s Point off Loop Road.

Maybe not the largest southern live oak in North Carolina (that one is found in Wilmington, “the Arlie Oak”), but nonetheless impressive in its stand. Photo by Rita Thiel
Hidden among sheds, trampolines and crab pots, some specimens keep their tales to themselves. Photo by Rita Thiel
Detail of a live oak tree. Photo by Rita Thiel



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  1. Why post a picture of a live oak tree with a rope and noose draped from it. Such a dichotomy within this photograpy.

    • Well, that certainly never occurred to us when we posted the story. The rope appeared to be leftover from a child’s swing, but we thank you for your observation and have replaced that photo with another one.

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