Covering more than two-thirds of the state’s land area, trees run deep in South Carolina. These gentle giants have been around for centuries and have witnessed the history of the state. Imagine the stories they could tell.
Also known as sabal palmettos, these strong coastal trees housed the first Native American inhabitants, withstood Revolutionary War cannonballs at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island, became the prominent feature on the state flag shortly before the Civil War and were the catalyst for the state’s nickname, the "Palmetto State.” Today, palmettos stand gracefully and proudly at the South Carolina State House in Columbia and in the hearts of her residents and visitors.
Southern Live Oaks
Designed to enhance the entrance of grand country estates, historic oak-lined alleys in the state can be found at Mt. Pleasant’s Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, where 80 live oak trees were planted in 1743 along the nearly 1-mile-long avenue; Charleston’s Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, founded in 1676 and the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry; and James Island’s McLeod Plantation, a former cotton plantation that is now an important Gullah heritage site.
A sapling when Thomas Green Clemson willed his land in the late 1880s for an agricultural college in the Upstate, the Centennial Oak on the campus of Clemson University is a landmark and popular gathering spot for students, alumni and visitors. Bestowed the name in 1989 to celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary, the record-setting bur oak stands 66 feet tall, with a 15-foot circumference and branches that span almost 125 feet.
The Angel Oak on Charleston’s Johns Island is located on land granted to Abraham Waight in 1717, and this is thought to be one of the oldest trees east of the Mississippi. Named for his descendent, Martha Waight, when she married Justus Angel—or possibly for the ghosts of former enslaved people who appear as angels, as folklore suggests—the Southern live oak provides shade that covers more than 17,000 square feet.
Located on the site of South Carolina’s first permanent English settlement and the birthplace of Charleston, the Wedding Oak is thought to have witnessed many weddings of the enslaved laborers and tenant farmers who lived on the property before it was preserved as Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site. Today, the countless weddings performed under the boughs of this majestic live oak— to the west of the Legare Waring House—share in South Carolina’s history while making their own.
Judged to be the largest of its species, champion trees flourish in Congaree National Park in Hopkins, creating a shrouded sanctuary with more specimens within its 26,000 acres than any other area in North America. These behemoth old-growth trees include hickories, cypress, pines, maples, oaks and elms. And, oh the history they have seen—from providing floodplain sustenance for Native Americans, assisting enslaved Africans in their quest for refuge and liberty and the ultimate preservation of this national monument.