When you are in the presence of The Angel Oak, you feel as if you are walking on hallowed ground. Everyone is strangely quiet. Whispering. In awe. Even the children realize this is not something you see everyday. They stare wide-eyed waiting for permission to approach the oldest thing—living or man-made—east of the Rockies. The Angel Oak is a live oak tree aged approximately 1,500 years, standing 65 feet high as it’s canopy shades 17,000 square feet of earth. It’s limbs—trees themselves—are so heavy some rest on the ground, go underground, then raise back up.
The Angel Oak, Johns Island, South Carolina
One of our team members recently discovered this ancient gem on a drive to John’s Island outside of Charleston, South Carolina. “The Tree” as it is reverently called in this low-country, has survived countless hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and human interference, and would have sprouted some 1000 years before Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World.
Which leads us, ever so circumspectly to Lisbon, Portugal, where Christopher Columbus reunited with his brother in 1479, and where not so far away in the town of Aguas de Moura in the Alentejo region of Portugal today stands The Whistler Tree. This great tree, the worlds oldest and largest cork oak, also magically captures our reverential respect and awe. Planted in 1783, and 225 years young, it was first harvested of its precious bark in 1820. Shorn every nine years since, it is the most productive cork oak tree on record, and is due to be harvested yet again in 2009, as anticipation and excitement grows in this vast open countryside.
The Whistler Tree, Aguas de Moura, Portugal
For over 130 years and under the careful protection of Amorim, the manufacturer of Wicanders’ Cork Oak Floors, trees like The Whistler Tree are protected and allowed to grow and mature for as long as nature determines. Amorim is careful to employ their sustainability and biodiversity initiatives in the cork oak forests, as they cyclically extract and transform natural raw material from the cork oak trees without ever harming them. This practice—in respect for the economic, social, and environmental value of their livelihood—is a growing reality that other manufacturers have only now begun to emulate.
Two great trees, one in the new world, one in the old…both survivors, both magnificent, both a gift of nature. Each simultaneously benefiting mankind. We hope The Angel Oak lives on for another 1500 years, and The Whistler Tree for another 225. For Team Wicanders, it’s satisfying to know that the green building paradigm sweeping the US will save other oak trees for generations to come.
Until next time…
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