Did you know there is a National Register of Big Trees? There is, and the Chesapeake area of Virginia actually has quite a few specimens on the list. Other trees are from the places you’d suspect: Yosemite National Park, New Orleans, Texas. But Virginia’s Laurel Oaks are breaking records for their girth and people are starting to take notice.
Several hundred years ago, people planted trees for far more than aesthetics. Large species offered protection, shade, and wood in some cases, all necessary components of every day life. Today, Virginia’s huge oaks still stand tall in neighborhoods all around the state.
The Laurel Oak is one of the oldest oak species in the world. Otherwise known as the Darlington oak, or the swamp laurel oak, the species is native to the southeastern US and prefers mild, humid climates with tons of moisture. The trees look similar to Live Oaks, a decorative favorite of genteel southern cities like Savannah, Georgia, but Laurels actually have proven much heartier than their large oak counterparts.
In Chesapeake, VA, homeowners whose yards play host to some of these large trees find people taking pictures and touching the trees at all hours of the day. People drive by, schools lead field trips, and scientists frequently come out to measure the trees and take photos. The trees themselves are protected by statewide historical statues which means they cannot be cut or altered in any way without express permission from the city government.
Virginia actually ranks 4th on the list of states with the most giant trees, partly because the state is home to several renowned tree experts. They’re consistently nominating specimens they find all throughout the state for the Giant trees registry which is published twice a year.
Some of Chesapeake’s best and biggest Laurel Oaks are estimated to be over 500 years old. One measures over 100-feet across at the top of its branches and is home to a wide variety of animals such as bats and squirrels. The trees don’t harbor moss as well as some of their oak counterparts but they are a great place for ferns to thrive.
If you’re considering planting large oaks in your yard, talk to a nursery or plant professional near you. Your lawn care provider can help you choose the best species for your yard and soil.