Volusia Oak is located near the town of Astor at the east side of the SR 40 bridge over the St. Johns River, in Northwest Volusia County, Florida. This magnificent oak is centuries old and largely forgotten by time.
As I embrace the tree curious drivers zoom past on SR 40, never noticing the amazing centuries old tree above me. Volusia Oak is likely 300-600 years old.
There are two plaquest on the site around the tree. Both are well-worn and hard to read. The large bronze marker reads:
Volusia, on the east back on the river St. Johns, is the birthplace of Volusia County and the oldest settlement. The United States Courts confirmed Horatio Dexter's 1815 Spanish title and Joseph Rattenbury's 1817 title to the 17,000 acre Volusia tract, which extended from the Mayacan Indian Mounds (1658) north to Lake George. Volusia Township was surveyed in 1821 divided into government lots in 1834 and confirmed on the United States Cadastral Survey Map.
The plaque continues:
This majestic oak marks the center of many historic sites to the southwest was the fort and mission San Salvador de Mayaca (1667), to the south Spalding's Upper Store (1763), which became Panton Leslie Indian Trading House (1778). Also in the vicinity during the Creek Seminole Indian War period (1835-1858) were Forts Volusia, Call, Barnwell and Columbia Volusia Military Cemetery adjoining this site and the Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1845 within Ft. Call's enclosure. Erected by the Volusia County Historical Commission. 1978.
The second plaque on the site was erected by the Pierson Garden Club, Pierson, Florida in cooperation with the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and Florida Department of State and Florida Department of Transportation.
The plaque reads: National Council of State Garden Clubs, Deep South Region, WILLIAM BARTRAM TRAIL. Traced 1773-1777. Wm. Bartram, Famed Naturalist classified flora and fauna for shipment, here, at Spalding's Upper Store, May and June 1774.
Neither plaques on the site specifically mention the tree by name but I've always called it "Volusia Oak," and I always stop for a few minutes and talk to the tree when I pass.
by some of the world's renowned plant biologists: Michał Bogdziewicz, Davide Ascoli, Andrew Hacket‐Pain, Walter D. Koenig, Ian Pearse, Mario Pesendorfer, Akiko Satake, Peter Thomas, Giorgio Vacchiano, Thomas Wohlgemuth, and Andrew Tanentzap.
Fairchild Oak is located about 30 miles toward the coast from Volusia Oak and they both survived the same conditions (more of less) including hurricanes, wars, floods, fires, and all other sorts of human predation like live oak trade timbering.
Fairchild Oak though now located in a State Park but it is much more threatened than Volusia Oak because of crowds of people visiting daily and climbing on its low hanging limbs and trampling the area around its base. The park is barely monitored (if at all).
In the photo above a low hanging limb creates an arch in the foreground. A few months later the massive limb has been felled and someone has tried to carve pieces of it with a chainsaw (below). I stand in this image for scale.
Both Volusia Oak and Fairchild Oak are over 70 feet tall. Fairchild Oak's branches spread further. Some branches spread 300 feet from the trunk of the tree and grow into the sandy soils where they contact the ground.
The plaque at the base of Fairchild Oaks says that it is 2000 years old but both trees are more likely 400 to 600 years old. Both trees have survived countless land owners and both are today located on state lands that are again, lightly regulated (if at all). So they are now most imperiled by man and by climate change.
The first Native Americans moved into the areas along the East Coast of Florida 5,000 years ago. The British ruled in the late 18th century and all the Native Americans were dead by 1767. In 1835 the 2nd Seminole War raged in this area and all of the areas plantations were burned. Somehow, someway, these trees have survived all of this humanity, and yet today they seem more imperiled than ever.