31I’m not just an unabashed tree hugger, I’m a tree kisser. When the mood strikes me, I’ll wrap my arms around a big white oak or sassafras or tulip poplar and plant a big wet one right on the scratchy bark.

We Southern tree lovers are especially fortunate. Of 688 tree species native to the United States, one-third — 235 species — occur in the South, more than in all of Europe. And that number doesn’t include introduced and naturalized species.

Many of our native trees occur exclusively in the South or reach their greatest prominence — and grandest forms — here. Some, like the magnolia, are Southern icons. I’m sometimes asked what are my favorite Southern trees, especially those that define the South or give it a sense of place. My top 10 include:

yaupon-holly-berries10) Yaupon holly, or cassina, which grows profusely in the South’s coastal areas and becomes loaded with bright red berries and shiny green leaves in winter. On John’s Island, a sea island near Charleston where I grew up, we hauled yaupon boughs from the woods to decorate our homes at Christmas. I preferred gathering yaupon because its leaves weren’t as thorny as American holly’s. I still love walking through a Southern maritime forest in winter and seeing yaupon’s striking red berries and leaves amidst all the drabness.

Yaupon is known for a distinctive trait — its leaves contain copious amounts of caffeine, the only native North American plant that harbors the substance. Coastal Indians boiled yaupon leaves to make a potent brew called “black drink.” Indian men, according to early Spanish explorer accounts, gathered at morning to discuss tribal business and sip black drink. Consumed in large amounts, yaupon tea induced vomiting. Hence, the plant’s scientific name, Ilex vomitoria. Before going into battle or on a hunt, the males of some tribes drank black drink to wrench their guts out and purge their bodies of evil spirits.

We read about yaupon in our history books. An uncle once told me he made a tea from yaupon and drank it to see what would happen. He said he “puked my guts out for two days.”

chickasawplum3609) Chickasaw plum (Prunus augustifolia), another small tree confined mostly to the South’s coastal plain and piedmont. We simply called it “wild plum.“

Dense plum thickets grow wild in old fields, hedgerows, roadsides and other sunny spots of the South. In early spring, even before their leaves come out, the diminutive trees are festooned with small white flowers that become tiny plums, either red or yellow, in summer.

The little plums are some of the sweetest, tastiest fruit I’ve ever eaten. As a boy, I crawled through plum thickets and picked the low-hanging fruits, popping them in in my mouth as I crept along. Sometimes, I picked a bucketful for my momma, who made a wonderful wild plum jelly.

I usually had the plum thickets to myself — most of my buddies dared not go in them because they were the reputed haunts of fierce rattlesnakes. The lure of the tasty little plums overcame my fear of snakes.

waxmyrtle8) Wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), a shrub-like tree that also grows in thickets in the South’s coastal plain and, occasionally, in the piedmont. I also crawled through myrtle thickets, but not for the fruit. In my mind, myrtle thickets were the closest thing to a dark, foreboding jungle, like the ones I saw in the movies or read about in my Daddy’s National Geographic magazines.

Where I grew up, many folks considered the wax myrtle a trash tree because it seemed always to spring up where not wanted. Others, like myself, found unique beauty in its open natural shape and shiny evergreen leaves that give off a sweet aroma. Nevertheless, I was amazed to learn later in life that nurseries actually sell the tree for landscaping purposes. The Georgia Native Plant Society even selected wax myrtle as its “Plant of the Year” in 2002.

Bird lovers covet the myrtle because its bluish berries nourish well over thirty-five bird species. Sea island Gullah folk, many of whom were my neighbors growing up, made fragrant candles from the waxy berries. We crushed the leaves and rubbed them on our arms to ward off vicious biting deer flies.

easternredcedar7) Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), which, despite its name, is not really a cedar. It’s a member of the juniper family. Its range is not just the South — it occurs all along the Eastern seaboard as far north as Canada. But, in my mind, it’s one of those trees that kindles fond memories for many a Southerner because, for many of us, Eastern red cedars served as our Christmas tree.

When I was a young boy, my older brothers took me with them when they poled our old family bateau across the salt marsh to a nearby hammock, or marsh island, to chop down a cedar for Christmas. Eastern red cedars covered the little island because its soil was sweetened by old limey oyster and clam shells. To this day, every time I smell an Eastern red cedar, I recall those happy holidays.

We also used the fragrant, rot-resistant cedar wood to make fence posts, chests and cabinets. It also was good for pencils. The Eagle Pencil Co. in 1908 bought Little St. Simons Island, a Georgia barrier isle, for its abundant red cedars. Shiploads of cedars were cut and dispatched to the pencil factory. The wood of many of them, however, was found to be too stressed from wind and salt spray, unsuitable for pencil-making.

6) Palmetto (Sabal palmetto), one of the South’s truly great trees, although it lives mostly along the coast. In my mind, the palmetto is the most beautiful of all the world’s palm species. Few things remind me more of home — and of our subtropical climate — than a stately palmetto with its arrow-straight trunk. One of the sounds I identified with most in childhood was palmetto fronds giving off an eerie rustle when they were gently billowed by a breeze off the river.

palmetto_tree_beaufort_sc_blss1140The palmetto is South Carolina’s state tree, as anyone who has seen the state’s flag would surmise. The tree is prominently pictured on the flag, symbolic of the Revolutionary War fort built of palmetto logs in 1776 on Sullivan’s Island near Charleston. The palmetto logs easily repulsed British cannonballs, which discouraged the attacking British fleet and caused them to call off the attack.

Florida, too, claims the palmetto as its state tree. A palmetto also graces its state flag, but you have to look hard to find the tree‘s image.

Palmetto fronds fall off the tree as it ages, leaving the trunk with a curious, crisscross pattern, like a thatched skirt or a woven basket. Many of us boys growing up on the coast spent hours building little huts from the fronds, like coastal Indians used to do.

The palmetto holds another significance for me — the yearbook of my alma mater, St. John’s High School on John’s Island, was called “The Palmetto.” When I graduated in 1962, we seniors were the first ones to get our hands on the new yearbook. A palmetto was supposed to grace its cover, but when we picked up our copies, we immediately noticed that the tree on the cover had a curved trunk and a distinct cluster of coconuts dangling from its canopy. The yearbook publisher obviously didn’t know the difference between palmetto and coconut. Outraged, we demanded that the publisher take back the yearbooks and replace the coconut tree with a palmetto. The publisher complied.

lrg_bald_cypress_swamp5) Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), or Southern cypress, a classic tree of the Deep South, emblematic of the vast swamps that give the region an enduring identity. Louisiana made the bald cypress its official tree, which is not surprising since the Bayou State is half swampland, prime habitat for the tree. In Florida, before the early Spanish explorers arrived, Calusa Indians carved hollow trunks of cypress to make canoes that floated them toward Cuba.

Naturalist William Bartram, who explored Florida’s St. John’s River in the late 1700s, described cypress trees as “majestic.” In his journal, he wrote admiringly of their stature. “What adds to the magnificence of their appearance,” he wrote, “Is the streamers of long moss that hang from the lofty limbs and float in the winds.”

My spirit also soars when I see 90-foot-tall bald cypresses standing ramrod straight in inky black swamp water, their massive trunk bottoms flared out in huge buttresses and their high, moss-festooned canopies shaped in conical splendor. It’s what draws me to the magnificent, cypress-filled wetlands — the Okefenokee in Georgia, Dismal in Virginia, Congaree in South Carolina and Corkscrew in Florida.

Some people regard cypress swamps as dark, shadowy and mysterious, metaphors for moral decadence, sloughs of despond. But not me. I find serenity and other-worldly beauty in the wetlands — places redolent of fertile earth, rich in bird and animal life.

Judging from their many references to cypresses in their novels and short stories, many great Southern writers — Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Robert Penn Warren and others — also found beauty, symbolism and a sense of place in the tree.

Wrote Eudora Welty in her book “Delta Wedding:” “Moss from the cypresses hung deep overhead now, and down by the water vines like pediments and arches reached from one tree to the next … the cypress trunks four feet thick in the water’s edge stood opened like doors of tents in Biblical engravings.”

dogwood24) Dogwood (Cornus florida), a beautiful and quaint reminder of the Old South — and the New South as well. With its gorgeous, bridal-white blossoms in early spring, the dogwood grows wild all over the eastern United States, but Southerners regard it as their very own. Towns and cities all over the South — Atlanta perhaps being the most prominent — celebrate the beauty of spring with their dogwood festivals. So what if the tree grows wild all the way to Canada? The dogwood is our tree.

In spring, the South’s woods and roadsides and yards are so dazzling white with dogwood blossoms that the landscapes look as if a blizzard had swept through them. When the Deep South’s dogwoods bloom amid a yardful of blooming azaleas, I can’t imagine a more glorious scene.

The dogwood is Virginia‘s official state tree. Virginians say they made it such “to foster a feeling of pride in our state and to stimulate an interest in the history and traditions of the Commonwealth.” A twelfth generation Virginian once told me that no other tree says Virginia better than the dogwood. But I’ve heard folks in South Carolina and Georgia and Alabama say the same thing about the dogwood’s significance in their states.

01133) Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandflora), which would make anybody’s list of the South’s greatest trees. The magnolia literally screams Southern. Think magnolia and the romantic South springs to mind — and most likely the image of a Southern woman. The magnolia is regarded as a symbol of Southern women — soft and delicate, yet, at the same time, strong and enduring. No wonder “Steel Magnolias” was the title of the movie about a close-knit group of strong Southern women living in a Louisiana town.

The magnolia’s large, beautiful white flower also was one of the symbols of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. It is now the official state flower of Louisiana and Mississippi. The tree is Mississippi’s state tree as well. No surprise, then, that Mississippi bills itself as the Magnolia State.

Few college campuses in the South are without their Southern magnolias, whose flowers cast a delightful lemony fragrance all around. When I smell a magnolia, I recall sitting in a University of South Carolina classroom in late May, the sweet-smelling magnolias blooming just outside an open window, and knowing that the start of summer vacation was only a few days away — but that final exams must be endured before I left.

Like nearly everyone else I knew on John’s Island, we had a huge, unpruned Southern magnolia in our yard. Though I was too awkward to be an agile tree-climber, like most of my buddies, ascending to the top of the magnolia was a cinch because of its many limbs spaced close together.

southern_longleaf_pine22) Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), once the single most dominant tree of the South’s coastal plain and much of its piedmont. A vast longleaf pine forest, with a groundcover of lush, waving-in-the-wind wiregrass, once stretched over the coastal plain from Virginia to Texas — some 60 million to 90 million acres. Great swaths of longleaf and wiregrass looked more like city parks than old-growth forests. More than 400 species of wildflowers, grasses, ferns, trees, shrubs and other so-called vascular plants could be found on a single acre of healthy longleaf forest, making it one of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems.

By the early 1900s, however, most of the great forest was felled for timber and agriculture and to build towns and cities. Huge, clumsy rafts of longleaf pine logs were floated down Southern rivers, like the Altamaha, to seaports like Darien, Ga., where ships were loaded with the prized wood and transported to ports all over the world.

Now, where longleaf pines and wiregrass once stretched as far as the eye could see, monotonous pine plantations of faster-growing loblolly and slash pine — what some call biological deserts — cover the landscape. Only small remnants of the once-magnificent longleaf ecosystem remain.

Longleaf pine, though, is still a revered species. Alabama claims it as the state’s official tree.

Author and activist Janisse Ray, who lives in Baxley, Ga., where once stood a great longleaf forest, wrote so eloquently of the tree in her book “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood” that one would be hard put to top her beautiful descriptions. “In a longleaf forest,” she wrote, “miles of open forest fade into a brilliant southern sunset and reappear the next dawn as a battalion marching out of fog. The tip of each needle carries a single drop of silver. The trees are so well spaced that their limbs seldom touch and sunlight streams between and within them.”

For me, suffice it to say that a mature, healthy longleaf/wiregrass forest is one of the most beautiful forests I’ve ever seen in the entire world. In my opinion, the most perfect example of how a longleaf forest looked to early European explorers of the South, like Ponce de Leon, is a private 200-acre sward near Thomasville, Ga. It’s called the Wade Tract, and is managed by the Tall Timbers Research Station near Tallahassee. In the tract, the wind sighing through the canopies of centuries-old longleaf is a most pleasing sound, unmistakable and unforgettable — like a “whistling kettle,” as Janisse Ray described it.

The longleaf’s balmy pine-scent, wafting on the wind, once lured well-heeled vacationers to the Thomasville area after the Civil War. Many came seeking relief from respiratory ailments like consumption, or tuberculosis. They believed that pine trees — especially longleafs — exuded a vapor that helped treat the maladies.

The vacationers noticed something else — that the splendid longleaf/wiregrass forests were prime habitat for the bobwhite quail, the South’s most highly prized game bird. Many wealthy Northern sportsmen bought longleaf forestland in the Red Hills region between Thomasville and Tallahassee and established luxurious quail hunting plantations. No one knew at the time, though, how valuable the plantations would become for longleaf preservation: By protecting their woods from mass-logging and development, the plantation owners unwittingly protected the finest examples of the South’s old-growth longleaf forests.

And my No. 1 favorite Southern tree, the live-oak (Quercus virginiana), whose girth and grace and beauty may be unmatched in the South. In my mind, nothing represents the strength of the South — and its haunting splendor — better than the live-oak. Sidney Lanier, Georgia’s most famous poet, starts out his best-known poem, “The Marshes of Glynn,” this way:

Glooms of the live-oaks,

beautiful-braided and woven

With intricate shades of the vines that


Chamber the forks of the multiform boughs, —

Emerald twilights, —

Virginal shy lights …

The whole poem, in fact, is replete with live-oaks as metaphors and symbols:

O braided dusks of the oak and woven shades of the vine,

While the riotous noon-day sun of the June-day long did shine

Ye held me fast in your heart and I held you fast in mine …

11It was in the shade of a live-oak that Lanier, visiting in Brunswick, Ga., in the 1870s, pondered over the great salt marsh — “a world of marsh that borders a world of sea” — stretching before him. Lanier’s oak still stands in Brunswick in the median of U.S. Highway 17, just across from the city’s Marshes of Glynn Overlook Park. A historic marker tells visitors that “here [Lanier] received the inspiration which resulted in some of his finest poems.“

The live-oak is Georgia’s official state tree. Several Southern cities and towns are named for the species — Live Oak, Fla., and Live Oak, Texas, among them. Charleston, Savannah and Mobile no doubt would lose much of their grace and charm if they had no massive live-oaks, shrouded in Spanish moss, hanging over their streets or shading their parks and neighborhoods.

The-live oak was by far the dominant tree of the grand maritime forests that once covered coastal barrier islands — and still do in some coastal areas. A scene you’ll find nowhere else but in the Deep South is the ponderous limbs of a live-oak leaning like a green parasol over the edge of a salt marsh. “Affable live-oak, leaning low,” as Lanier described it.

Southerners are fiercely proud of their live-oaks. I have seen groups of Southerners from various states in heated arguments over whose state has the biggest, grandest and showiest live-oak. Of course, in my mind, the famed Angel Oak of John’s Island, a giant live-oak covering nearly an acre of ground, wins hands down. The Angel Oak is believed to be more than 1,600 years old. It was just down the road from my boyhood home. We would literally run barefoot over its massive limbs, several of which sunk to the ground. Generations of islanders carved their initials in the limbs, though we would dare not do such a thing now. One reason is that it is now protected within the confines of a Charleston city park, and you have to pay to see it.

After the Revolutionary War, the nation’s fleet of tall ships was built of live-oaks from the South’s coastal barrier islands. In my book, “Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses,” I write: “Live-oak’s strength and resistance to rot and woodborers, as well as its naturally curved limbs, made it ideal for building tall ships — frigates, men-of-war, brigantines, packets, whalers, merchantmen. The dense wood doesn’t float when fresh. Some said it surpassed the teak of India as the best timber for the greatest variety of naval purposes. Cannonballs hitting live-oak planking zinged back into the water.”

In the 1700s, legions of loggers from up north — calling themselves “live-oakers” — came to the coastal islands of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida to fell live-oaks by the thousands. The timber was sent to northern shipyards to build the ships. To this day, natives of several coastal islands — including us on John’s Island — debate over which island supplied the live-oak for one of the nation’s most famous sailing vessels, “Old Ironsides.”

When Hurricane Hugo pounded South Carolina’s coast in 1989, the powerful, howling winds broke off countless massive limbs from the big live-oaks on my family‘s land on John’s Island. In some cases, centuries-old live-oaks were uprooted. Seizing the opportunity, shipwrights from Mystic Seaport, Conn., which houses one of the nation’s grandest maritime museums replete with numerous historical sailing ships, drove their flatbed trucks to John’s Island and loaded them with Hugo-leveled live-oak. The timber was hauled back to Mystic and to other East Coast seaports and used to repair — and in some cases, rebuild — numerous old sailing ships. Later, when we visited Mystic, a giant live-oak log in its maritime park displayed a sign: “Live Oak from John’s Island.”

These, then, are my favorite Southern trees. Some would argue that the white oak and the tulip poplar also should be on the list, but those species also are just as prominent up north as they are in the South. Actually, I love all trees (except perhaps when they fall on people’s houses or crush people in their cars). As oft-quoted poet Joyce Kilmer wrote: “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.”

Charles Seabrook

Charles Seabrook

A South Carolina native, Charles Seabrook has been a long-time environmental writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His books include Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses and Red Clay, Pink Cadillacs and White Gold: Georgia’s Kaolin Chalk Wars. A resident of Decatur, Georgia, Seabrook also was one of the first reporters in the world to write about the mysterious disease that would soon be known as AIDS. He has written extensively on global warming, air and water pollution, and songbird decline.

  1. Keith Graham

    I was sitting on the back porch in Glynn County in the shade of a wonderful old live oak draped with Spanish moss when I read your story. No question for me, live oaks are my favorites. But I have to say, too, that the two orange trees in my backyard are also great companions. And there’s a certain white oak in Atlanta that I will always feel fond of.

  2. Let’s don’t forget that trees are not just something you find in rural areas. One of the better features of Southern cities is that many of them have done a better job of preserving trees, despite all the pressures of development, than have cities in other places. I remember flying into Atlanta once while sitting next to a first-time visitor from Ireland. As we circled the city preparing to land, he looked out the window and marveled, “It’s a city in a forest.” Let’s hope that future visitors can still experience that sense of wonder.

  3. Janet Ward

    My favorite tree-hugger has been killed. At Kingsley Plantation just off Amelia Island, a growth on one tree was quite a favorite of my sisters and me. The last time I was home, one of my sisters told me it had been chopped off — whether because someone in the Park Service thought it was obscene or whether it had some “fungus,” we don’t know. But I am sending the photo to the Blog Guru in the hopes that he can post it somewhere.

  4. Charlie, all of the trees you describe are magnificent, but it is the trees of the woods I wandered as a child in south Alabama that take me somewhere emotional and nostalgic — longleaf pine, sweet gum, oaks of all kinds, sycamore and, of course, the plum trees!

  5. Lee Leslie

    I’ll never forget walking with my wife one afternoon in Savannah and over hearing a very young couple who were admiring the ancient Live Oaks. The young man said to his wife, “Honey, we don’t have trees like this back in Maryland, maybe we should plant some in our backyard. So what if it takes ten years.”

  6. Billy Howard

    I think that I shall never see
    A blog post lovely as a tree
    But if one should come even close
    Charles Seabrook’s Dew post does the most

    A blog post that on this bright Sunday
    Makes me want to hike till Monday
    Perhaps to spot my favorite tree
    A dogwood, that’s the one for me.

    Of course they’re those who disagree
    And claim that dogwood ain’t a tree
    To them I say well that’s just fine
    You pick your tree, I’ll pick mine.

    Indeed it is a flower also
    But not a tree? Just plain false-o!
    I see one now, a pretty sapling
    to lay beneath and take my nap-ling.

  7. Somewhere, I read something like this: Nature’s way is God’s way, so if you want to know God, y’gotta know Nature. I’ve been reading Charlie “Trap” Seabrook’s columns for more years than I care to calculate, partly because I came to understand that he has acquired a superbly well-informed understanding of the truth of that notion about Nature’s Way. For me and thousands of other birdwatchers, tree-huggers and seekers of wildlife of every sort, all over the South, our man Seabrook is a beloved guide to the good life. More’n more, Like The Dew is shaping up as a homecoming place, a long-awaited refuge, for some of the better writers ever to work at the Atlanta newspapers. Charlie Seabrook is one-such….a big’n.

  8. Very interesting story, Mr. Seabrook, although I prefer my trees ground into newsprint. Apparently because your story was so inspiring, however, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry goes to Billy Howard.

  9. Very interesting post. I’d have to include the Tulip Poplar and the American Beech, but great list.

  10. Enchanting, but as the venerable Ouiser Boudreaux said, “A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.” C’mon Charlie, you pulled your punch on magnolia-fried women (#3). Something juicier than “strong and enduring” is required to balance the seesaw with “soft and delicate.” Something of equal menace and allure. “Tough and trashy,” maybe? Help me out, readers.

    P.S. to my friends: Don’t worry, the woman who wields the steel at my house is from Baltimore. And the Maryland State tree is the broad, tall, sturdy, scaly-barked, irregularly crowned White Oak, which of course does not describe her at all, but did you know that she can produce a shrill whistle through an empty White Oak shell? That girl, she can stop traffic!

  11. Terri Evans

    The memory of the first time I saw Angel Oak is still vivid to me after almost 45 years. I was ten at the time and desperate to climb it first, then recline on one of the luxurious limbs with a good book afterward. Sadly, neither happened. Charlie, I really enjoyed this piece. Thanks for the education and the prose. Would love some wild plum jelly, but no chance I’ll ever harvest the plums. The snakes can have them if they’re standing guard.

  12. What a great article and I’m so pleased to learn about this site. Thank you for enjoying our trees through your eyes.

  13. Ed Martin sent me over here and I’m glad I followed his direction. Speaking as a fellow tree-kisser, what a treat to hear stories about trees from another part of country, both in post and comments. I’ve read descriptions by Bartram and others of the great Southeastern forests, and I’ve picked and made wax from berries of Myrica pennsylvanica, the shrubbier northern wax myrtle that grows in the pine barrens. (You get only the tiniest bits of wax from tons of berries, so your candle-making friends were hard workers.) I notice that Duke says that the vomity part of yaupon is in the berries, not the leaves, but I’ve read of using this tea for purges in the Amazon, so I’m confused now (a state that I find is becoming more and more frequent). I was looking it up because I was trying to see if the 0 glycemic levelsyrup that’s out now is from the same tree. As for live oaks, the inland California version is an icon for me. But aren’t they all.

  14. I am not a tree expert, but in spite of that fact I have a vision of the perfect Southern forest. It’s the one you ride to in a wagon full of barrels and go from tree to tree to tree to gather the sap from the little buckets hanging on them just below the slash in the tree.
    It goes on and on and the barrels fill up and the smell get better and better. And finally after a whole day of bugs, heat, bouncing and listening to Grandfather, Sir yelling at everyone in sight–the prize! Back to the house where Ma Sally has homemade ice cream by the gallon at the ready. Worth every itch.

  15. That’s a fine list……Personally, I love the White Oak and every Hickory…….This great article led me to check out Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses……It’s a real good read…..Thank you

  16. Way to go, Charlie, great article! As an old tree hugger myself and now living in South Carolina, I love to see longleaf pines and live oaks and would also give them the very top rankings. Also having a leaning to the mountains, I’d put hemlock on my list and hope that noble tree will survive the current onslaught of the destructive wooly adelgid.

  17. Its been many years since I moved from Atlanta to Florida. And still your words follow me and inspire. It really matters not which trees you chose to revel in and which trees you are silent on. What does mater is that you revel in the majesty, beauty, and worth of any of these wonderful and great species. When I lived in Georgia I often traveled with a dear friend who, like you, took every opportunity to remind of the majesty of the forests that we passed, but also poundng into me the speices by name and its uique characteistics. I now pass this knowledge and respect of the forest on to my daughter, who in turn passes it on to her friends. There is hope. Thanks!

  18. Great article. I am a landscaper in Norfolk, Virginia and specialize in southern coastal plain flora, of which our city holds many of the species you write about. We have many old species too. We are the northern most range of the southeast coastal plain which includes several communities of Spanish Moss, not to mention Loblolly Bay, Laurel and Hemispherica Oaks. We grow all of the beautiful species the author lists very well.

  19. Charlie:

    I just came across this great column of yours on trees because Beau Cutts sent me a link to the column about leaving Marietta Street.

    I mostly agree with your selection of best-loved trees, although I don’t have the personal attachments to wild plums and wax myrtle. Longleaf pine and live oak would be my personal favorites also. I think there should be room on there somewhere for three others:
    — pecan. Even without the nuts, it’s a hell of a tree.
    — I also agree with another reader’s suggestion of loblolly bay. We had those growing wild at the edge of the swamp when I was a boy in Florida and the smell of the flowers was almost heavenly. I see it is related to the “lost Gordonia” that John Bartram evidently saved from extinction in the Altamaha River swamp in the 1700s.
    — Black walnut, because the wood is so beautiful. Some woodworkers say there are only two kinds of wood, black walnut and firewood.

    But the southern tree I want to mention is not native and is usually regarded as a “trash” tree, now in fact as an invasive species and has no place on a list like yours. Years ago, on our way from Atlanta down to my folks’ farm in the Florida panhandle, we stopped at Lufkin to tromp through some of the old houses there. In the old courthouse, there was a really attractive chair. I asked the lady who was guiding us through the building what the chair was made of. She looked at me kind of funny and said, “poor man’s mahogany.” It was chinaberry, something I usually thought of as poor man’s little spot of shade, because you usually saw it hanging over the water shelf at the back of a sharecropper’s shack or somewhere like that. I looked it up. Wikipedia says it’s of the mahogany family but its wood is “underutilized.” Who’d ever of thought something like that. Chinaberry. A treasure in hundreds of abandoned cotton fields.

  20. That music is absolutely amazing, and I’m not really into that kind of music! I really like it!

  21. Could you tell me what these trees are that line the roadway aside Beaver Lake, in Woodfin (outside Asheville) North Carolina. They have wart-like bumps on their bark.

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