One of the most beautiful things about our state is indeed its natural beauty! Filled with animal and plant life galore, just walking outside your front door can give you a real taste of beauty! One of the most stunning natural elements of our state is one of the oldest! Today, we are going to be talking about the top ten common trees found in South Carolina!
Hello, adventurers and welcome back to the Coastal Expeditions blog! We hope you’re doing well, hope you’ve had a moment to get lost on purpose, and hope you’ve had the chance to get outdoors! Soak up the sunshine whenever it’s out! No matter how far you go or for how long, any moment outside can be an adventure all year round! If you’re looking for a brand new adventure or a brand new way to adventure, we might just be able to help you with that! For all of your SUP, kayaking, hiking, and boat tours of all kinds right here in Charleston, SC look no farther! With Coastal Expeditions, you’ll be able to find the perfect tour just for you at all levels, and everyone is always welcome!
One of the most special things about each of our tours is the fact that you will find yourself in the middle of natural, raw, and real every time we go out. You’ll find yourself in the middle of the Francis Marion National Forest, in the middle of Shem Creek, in the middle of Boneyard Beach, and so many other beautiful locations surrounded by wildlife and plant life. Who knows what you’ll find, come across, or see when you explore with us! If you’ve scrolled through our Instagram account recently (If you’re not following us yet, we encourage you to do so! It is full of some great information and beautiful pictures!) you will see an amazing picture from our venture into Congaree, where we went in deep!
It can be hard to get there, especially this time of year, and even harder to be there because it’s wet, muddy, and cold. However, the trek is worth it. Some of the oldest trees in the American east live back there, like giant bald cypress trees with unimaginable trunk circumferences and heights! They still exist after generations because they are so difficult to get to. It also is a great reminder that these ancient beauties have already been or continue to get cut down for timber, to wide roads, or build more houses. Remember, once these timeless beings are taken down, they can’t be brought back. It’s times like this that we are extra grateful to the Coastal Conservation League, Lowcountry Land Trust, Charleston Waterkeeper, Audubon South Carolina, Center for Birds of Prey, the South Carolina Aquarium, and all of our partners that work so hard to keep these wild places wild in the Lowcountry, and keep us inspired to do our part too.
One of the most spectacular things about the Lowcountry is its oldest residents, its trees. In honor of the work so many are putting in to save them and in honor of our trip into the depths of Congaree, we wanted to talk about ten of the most common trees found right here in South Carolina to help raise awareness and to celebrate each of them! This list isn’t a list of endangered trees, but at the rate they are being cut down and destroyed, all trees should be treated as such.
This beauty is apart of the Beech family and is also called the Barren Oak, Black Oak, and Jack Oak. It gets its name from its short, neatly black trunk that divides into many dense and contorted limbs. It is a small to medium tree, standing at heights between 30 and 50 feet. It has bristle-lobed leaves that are shiny on the top and rusty yellow and hairy on the bottom. Its foliage is dark green throughout the summer, and turns red into the fall, and remains into winter. It does grow fairly large acorns and is known to grow in colonies. It tends to hold onto dead branches in the middle and lower part of the trunk, and it has an irregular crown. The tree flowers April to May and its acorns appear September through October.
This tree also comes from the Beech family and is sometimes called a Swamp Spanish Oak as well as a Pin Oak. It is a very tall and striking tree that is hard to miss. It usually ranges between 60 to 70 feet in height, but it can grow much taller when left alone. It has a very straight trunk with horizontal branches. Unlike many of its oak relatives, it has a very graceful and slender appearance. It has dark green leaves in the summer and dark yellow to red leaves in the fall that last into winter. It is very popular for planting on personal lawns and is very easily transplanted thanks to how strong it is and its shallow root system. The leaves are very distinctive with 5-9 lobes with pointed teeth that are bristle topped. It flowers between April and May and bears its acorns in September and October. It can also be spotted thanks to its pyramid or cone shape.
Also from the Beech family, the Post oak is sometimes called the Iron Oak or the Cross Oak. Post Oaks usually stand between 40 and 50 feet tall and have coarse branches with a very dense oval crown. Its trunk can be grey to reddish-brown. Its leaves can vary, being 3 to 5 inches in length, and can be very wavy or very lobed. The lobes are rounded and can have up to 4 on both sides of the leaf, and its branches can sometimes be very contorted with very stout twigs that are hairy during the season. It flowers between April and May and bears its acorns in September and October. Its leaves are often compared to crosses and ghosts, and they can grow in rocky upland, woodlands, and flat woods.
Red maples come from the Aceraceae or Maple family. They can also be called Scarlet Maples or Soft Maples. They are very popular ornamental trees that can grow between 40 and 60 feet in the wild! The leaves can vary between 3 and 5 lobed leaves, with lobes that are separated by angles very similar to the letter V. They first begin with stunning smooth or silver-grey bark and have very dense roots. Its fall foliage can range from its namesake to yellow or greenish color. It is a stunning tree that provides a ton of shade and it has the greatest north-south distribution of all tree species along the east coast, according to wildflower.org
. They can be found growing between Eastern Canada down to South Florida and all the way east as far as Texas. It is not usually found in the forest and is tolerant of most soils to grow in. However, it prefers to grow in moist conditions that are slightly acidic. It has a long trunk with an irregular crown. The leaves are very unique and can range between 2-5 inches long with 3-5 lobes. The middle lobe is the longest and the base of the lobe is V-shaped. As the tree ages, that silver-grey trunk begins to get darker and flaky. It flowers between March and April and flowers May through June in winged pairs, what so many lovingly call helicopters. They mainly live in bottomland forests.
This beautiful tree is known for its very aromatic smell and the stunning yellow, deep orange, reds, and purples it leaves change into in the fall. It is also known for its dark blue fruits that are loved by birds in the fall. It is a middle-sized tree and can grow to be between 30 and 60 feet tall. It is also sometimes called a White Sassafrass, Agie Tree, Cinnamon Wood, Mitten Tree, Saloop, and Smelling Stick. The female trees have yellow-green balls of flowers that scatter all over them, and its leaves are bright green and most often shaped like mittens or are oval-shaped with three lobes. The roots of the trees make sassafras oil used in soaps, sassafras tea, and has been used to flavor rootbeer in the past, according to wildflower.org
. The bark of the tree was even once a cure-all for any ailments during Colonial times.
This pyramid-shaped tree with dark green star-shaped leaves grows up to be between 60 and 70 feet tall. In the fall, the star leaves turn yellow, red, and purple lasting into early winter. It has long-stemmed fruit that ends in a round, woody, burr-covered fruit. The genus that the Sweet Gum comes from is only made up of 6 total trees and was first discovered and mentioned historically around 1519 according to arborday.com
. In the past, it has been used in medicines, glues, and soaps. The tree is enjoyed by a plethora of animals including finches, wild turkeys, sparrows, squirrels, and chipmunks. It can also be called American Sweet Gum, Red Gum, White Gum, Star-Leafed Gum, Starleaf Gum, Alligator Tree, Saint Walnut, Blisted, and Liquid Amber. While it usually only grows up to 60-70 feet tall, it has been known to grow as tall as 130 feet in the wild.
These beautiful trees can grow to be between 70 and 100 feet tall and are known as shade trees. They have the largest trunk in diameter than any other natural hardwood tree. According to wildflower.com
, the trunks of the tree were once used as chimney swifts. In older trees, when the bark is shaved off, a whitish bark is left behind. Its globular fruit remains on the tree deep into wintertime and its large leaves turn brown in the fall. The sap of the tree is very pleasant to drink and can be boiled down into syrup, but it doesn’t have a very high sugar content. The tree is a favorite of birds but deer are repelled by it. It can also be called the American Sycamore, Eastern Sycamore, American Plane Tree, Plane Tree, Buttonwood, and the Buttonball Tree.
These are evergreen trees that can grow up to 30 to 40 feet tall and are even known to grow taller than that. It can also be referred to as the Cabbage Palm along with Cabbage Palmetto. It sheds its older fan-shaped leaves as new ones grow from the top, and they grow numerous white flowers that turn into shiny black fruits that drop to the ground. The leaf buds were once eaten like a cabbage salad, and its leafstalk is used to make baskets, hats, and other ornamental objects. It usually does not grow any farther than 70 miles away from the coast, and it is not affected by the salt spray of the ocean. While the bud was once used to make cabbage salad, please do not do so today as it kills the tree when the bud is removed. It is a very important tree to its natural ecosystem, providing homes to bugs, reptiles, birds, mammals, and other local plants.
These fast-growing trees can grow up to 25 to 35 feet tall and have dark green needles and grow brownish red pinecones that can grow up to 6 inches long. Naturally, it adapts to very moist soil conditions, is very easy to transplant, and is a wonderful shade tree. It grows from New Jersey down to Florida and as far west as Texas. It is known to grow in and take over abandoned areas and is also a very aromatic tree. It has a very large trunk and its name Loblolly means “a depression”. It is a wonderful provider of food and shelter to native animals like wild turkeys, Carolina chickadees, and northern bobwhites. Small rodents like squirrels and chipmunks love its seeds. Another definition of Loblolly is “mud puddle”, as an attribute to where they like to grow. It can also be called the Old Field Pine, Bull Pine, and Rosemary Pine.
Considered by many as “one of the most attractive native trees around” according to arborday.com
, its dark green leaves are very glossy and beautiful, but are the most notable in the fall when they turn yellow, orange, purple, scarlet, or bright red. Sometimes these different colors can appear all on the same branch at the same time. Over time, its bark grows to medium grey color and resembles alligator hide, and can grow to be between 30 and 50 feet tall. Its fruit is black and blue and is loved by many birds. In the spring, the tree grows very interesting greenish-white flowers and the tree itself grows in an oval shape. The tree is also a favorite with honey producers, it creates a very light tasting honey that usually catches a very high price when being sold at markets. It is a beautiful ornamental tree that provides plenty of shade that likes to grow in dryer soils but can also survive in areas with bad drainage. It can also be called Blackgum, Tupelo, Sourgum, and Pepperidge.
What is your favorite tree in the Lowcountry, adventurers? Did you notice that so many of them are known for their shade and ornamentation? It makes so much sense; these trees give our state so much beauty and provides shade to everything and everyone in the hotter months! Which tree do you hope to see more of in your next expedition? Share it with us below! We look forward to seeing you soon! Until then, get outside and enjoy the Lowcountry as much as you can!