McCleod Plantation, Charleston, SC

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#1)  McCleod Plantation, Charleston, SC

Postby bbeduhn » Mon Oct 09, 2017 4:42 pm

The McCleod Plantation is on Wappoo Creek, just off of the Ashley River. The home was built in 1851. Two avenues of oaks extend to the front and one side of the plantation house. McCleod was a cotton plantation. Many of the remaining plantations in Charleston were rice plantations. Freed slaves were awarded the property after the Civil War but the federal government eventually returned the plantation to the McCleod family.

The live oak avenues look to be from the time the house was built, with a later addition extending to the Wappoo, likely in the early 20th Century. Live oaks of many ages inhabit the site. I took photos of younger ones, which are clearly multitrunked. It can be difficult determining just how many trunks make up an older live oak tree. The largest circumference is of a clear double. The next several largest ones are all clearly single stemmed.

               
                       
live double.jpg
                       
Clear double live oak  23' cbh
               
               
               
                       
live triple 1.jpg
                       
younger triple
               
               
               
                       
live triple 2.jpg
                       
younger triple
               
               
               
                       
live multi 1.jpg
                       
younger multi
               
               
               
                       
live milti 2.jpg
                       
younger multi
               
               
               
                       
live 17 9.jpg
                       
17'9" live oak
               
               
               
                       
pecan 1.jpg
                       
pecan 11'4"
               
               
               
                       
pecan 2.jpg
                       
pecan 11'4"
               
               
               
                       
live 15 11.jpg
                       
largest of the avenue oaks 15'11" 74.4'
               
               

The two remaining live oaks discussed are very likely the two oldest live oaks I've encountered. The first one has the most battered crown I've seen and the second one has, by far, the craggiest appearance I've ever seen on a live oak.
               
                       
live 18 8-1.jpg
                       
extremely old 18'8"
               
               
               
                       
live 18 8-2.jpg
                       
extremely old 18'8"
               
               
               
                       
live 18 8-3.jpg
                       
extremely old 18'8"
               
               

I'd estimate these last two trees at 400-450 years, making them older than the Angel Oak and the Middleton Oak. My guess for the The Angel Oak is 275-325 and for the Middleton Oak 325-375. The arborist at McCleod has aged the large one in the 300-600 range.
               
                       
live 22 9-1.jpg
                       
22'9"
               
               
               
                       
live 22 9-2.jpg
                       
22'9"
               
               
               
                       
live 22 9-3.jpg
                       
22'9"
               
               
               
                       
live 22 9-4.jpg
                       
22'9"
               
               
               
                       
live 22 9-5.jpg
                       
22'9'
               
               
               
                       
live 22 9-6.jpg
                       
22'9"
               
               


live oak  22'9"  54.3' 118' spread
live oak  15'11" 74.4'
live oak  17'9"
live oak  16'4" 67.3'
live oak  18'8" 63.1'
pecan     11'4" 49.2'
pecan      65.4'
laurel oak  83.0'  84.7' 91.6' 92.4'
loblolly pine  84.6'

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#2)  Re: McCleod Plantation, Charleston, SC

Postby Rand » Mon Oct 09, 2017 11:12 pm

largest of the avenue oaks 15'11" 74.4'


I have to wonder, why did this tree develop with more of a forest grown form, so atypical of all the other live oak pictures posted to this board?

It's also interesting to see the bubbly, burly looking trunks of the old oaks, so typical of the ancient oaks in Europe.
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#3)  Re: McCleod Plantation, Charleston, SC

Postby bbeduhn » Tue Oct 10, 2017 12:46 pm

Rand,
I see one or two of the more straight variety of live oaks at each plantation in their avenue of oaks. I think they're just genetically superior, shooting up more quickly. This one is particularly straight and with a wide bole. Boone Hall Plantation has a couple like this one as well. One of them certainly appeared to predate the avenue but I'm not sure of that.
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#4)  Re: McCleod Plantation, Charleston, SC

Postby Rand » Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:29 pm

I've read about live oak being prized in the shipbuilding days.  They always talk about using the limb junctions for knees, but I've always wondered if they would have been just as eager to use trees like that, if they could find enough of them.
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#5)  Re: McCleod Plantation, Charleston, SC

Postby bbeduhn » Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:04 pm

It appears that live oaks were smaller in the past because they primarily grew in maritime forests. They certainly were large but not as large as the open grown live oaks we know of today.  I can't recall the source for live oaks being smaller but someone did a study of some sort on maritime forests and came to that conclusion.
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#6)  Re: McCleod Plantation, Charleston, SC

Postby Larry Tucei » Wed Oct 11, 2017 5:27 pm

Hi Brian-  I really enjoy your postings on the Live Oaks but the age estimates may be a little high. When the Middleton Oak lost two of it's larger limbs they were aged.  It was determined that the tree was only around 200 years old. Much younger than previously thought. Here was the response from Vic Shelbourne on the Middleton Oak-  "As for the Middleton oak, the cookie showed a ring count of less than 200 years (about 190) for a limb less than 20 feet off the ground and near the main stem. Based on those data, it would seem that the Middleton oak is NOT nearly as old as people have believed—300-400 yrs plus which people conjecture, It may be barely 200 which I think would surprise a lot of people.  Live oaks just grow a lot faster than people realize. I have yet to find someone to corroborate the ring count (except students) so I have not advertised that fact. SO that is where we stand. The 6” thick  cookie  is about 2 feet by 3 ft in diameter (oblong) and must weigh over 100 lbs. It is not going anywhere in our wood shop! "  The 22' tree in your photos is old yes but I do think it to be in the 300 year range. It is possible- but more likely in the 200 year range.
               
                       
Seal Ave Oak.jpg
                       
Seal Ave Oak -21" 4"  2008
               
               
I've seen this form before knarly and knotted up- really wild looking.  I recall one in Biloxi (Seal Ave Oak)very similar to your tree but I'm not sure how old it is. It looks so ancient but unless a tree is cored or cut down there really is no way to know for sure the age other than an estimate.  I'll add that 22 footer to the Live Oak Listing  - Larry

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#7)  Re: McCleod Plantation, Charleston, SC

Postby Erik Danielsen » Wed Oct 11, 2017 5:44 pm

Based on my experience with similarly gnarled and ancient-looking white oaks up here I'd suggest fungal infection as another factor to skew the visuals- the knotting and bulging appear to be associated with non-fatal fungi (a phenomenon that seems to be better studied in european oaks, where it's believed to both stunt growth and extend lifespan at least as far as I've read) can produce a more aged appearance and apparent limb volume as compared to a tree of similar age but less fungal activity.

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#8)  Re: McCleod Plantation, Charleston, SC

Postby bbeduhn » Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:12 am

Larry,
I heard that a cookie from the Middleton Oak had been saved but I never heard a count on it. When I was there, the cuts were a bit too high for me to see the rings. I do question whether that limb was similar in age to the germination of the tree. The Middleton oak has (had) many lower, very large branches which would be close in age to the tree. These are less than 20 feet up.

I talked to a docent there who claimed the Middleton Oak was a Native American trail marker. If so, it's considerably older than 200 years. I take the claim with a grain of salt. I don't see either claim to be necessarily true or untrue to the age of the tree. The Middleton Oak is an open grown tree. The two oldest ones at McCleod were not open grown. They spent much of their lives in a maritime forest and most certainly had considerable size in 1851. They would certainly not be just 200 years old. That doesn't mean 400, but the 400 figure isn't beyond likelihood. Why would a small, forest grown oak be saved so close to the house? The avenues are 165 years old. The largest of the avenue trees is 15'11", in an open grown situation. Others are under 11'. Some were in the 6' or 7' range and had obviously been replaced, but these stood out as being in the 75 year or less range. An avenue of live oaks at Charles Towne Landing is dated definitively to 75 years, exactly. These open grown live oaks varied from about 6' to 10' feet in girth. The differences in sizes was greater than I would expect.

I agree we don't know definitively on live oaks that existed before the plantations did but we can be fairly certain that these trees had a fair amount of age before the plantations were developed. Trees put on girth slower in forested settings. These two trees may be only in the 300 year range although I still lean toward the 400+ figure. They simply cannot be in the 200 year range.

The Middleton Oak has put on essentially zero growth since the measurement in 2004. It has experienced significant limb loss, which may account for some of the nongrowth. I don't have any previous figures for the McCleod oaks. Erik's quote about the fungus slowing growth makes perfect sense for the McCleod Oaks. The Angel Oak is still putting on both significant growth in both girth and limb length. It is still a vibrant tree. The Middleton Oak is in serious decline and not growing. My arguments for age are conjecture but they do seem to be quite logical.
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#9)  Re: McCleod Plantation, Charleston, SC

Postby Larry Tucei » Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:31 am

Brian-    In Louisiana, Ms. Live Oaks grow tend to grow much faster than SC it seems. Your climate in the winter is a little harsher and that may be the difference.  Soil, climate, sunlight all have a factor and tree genetics also play an important in tree growth. I've seen Live Oaks at Plantations that have been planted at the same time but can be from 30' Circumference to as little as 16' Cir-  a large difference.  So yes it could be between -200 and 300.  Live Oaks growing in a Forest setting tend to grow much taller than open grown. I'm surprised that the Crown Spread is only 118' and only 66' tall usually it would be taller and much larger on a older tree. The Forest was cut long ago there and it should have had time to grow much wider.  It would be cool to do a more in-depth study of Live Oak growth rates in different locations. In the past years I've been watching grow rates in many areas.  I've seen many cut down Live Oak stumps and counted rings from Louisiana to Florida. The average growth rates are around .25-.375 radial per year.  The fastest as much as .75 and the least .125 so it varies a lot. I have been studying growths rates for several years now but as I pointed out the only way for sure is to count the rings.  Estimates are just a guess. Larry
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