According to Brion Capo, the urban forester with the City of Wilmington, the prize-winner is the Airlie Oak at Airlie Gardens, 300 Airlie Road, Wilmington [Map this]. Estimated to be more than 460 years old. When it was measured by the N.C. Forest Service for its Champion Big Tree Program in 2007, the tree stood 128 feet high, with a circumference at breast height of about 257 inches (more than 21 feet) and an average crown spread (how far out the branches grow) of 104 feet. Officially, it’s not just the largest tree in New Hanover County — it’s the largest tree in North Carolina.
Several other live oaks, nearly as big, stand near the Airlie Oak in the gardens, Capo noted. And directly across Bradley Creek — and the end of Shady Lane, just off Masonboro Sound Road, stands the runner up. Until the 2007 measurements, locals thought it was bigger than the Airlie Oak, but a double trunk disqualified it for “largest tree” status.
Another gigantic live oak can be seen in Porters Neck where the Outer Loop crosses U.S. 17. The off ramp at this location had to be redesigned to spare the tree, which is at least 450 years old by best estimates.
The questioner mentioned the World’s Largest Living Christmas Tree, at 401 Hilton St., Wilmington [Map this], in Hilton Park, next to the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant. The beloved tree, a landmark since it was selected for local Christmas celebrations in the late 1920s, once stood an estimated 95 feet high, although age and storm damage have trimmed its height to about 70 to 75 feet or so.
The live oak, or evergreen oak, is a name applied to several oaks of the genus Quercus. Many are common along North Carolina’s Coastal Plain. Unlike other oaks, the live oak keeps its leaves throughout the year. It was commonly used for shipbuilding in the 1700s (the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” was built of live oak).
Date posted: December 3, 2009
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