Treasured Trees of Amelia Island
A big part of what makes Amelia Island so beautiful – and what literally helps preserve it – are the lush trees that comprise the maritime forest canopy, with its uniquely windswept profile and the presence of trees that have been present for decades and sometimes centuries. The canopy creates a microclimate that is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and it also works to temper the effects of wind and water on the island’s dunes and beaches.
For the second consecutive year, the Amelia Tree Conservancy hosted a sold-out Treasured Tree Trolley Tour and brought lucky guests around the island to see some of the most unusual specimens (and hear the great stories behind them.) You can take their self-guided tour on your next visit – until then, here are three you won’t want to miss. [photos by Michael Spicer.]
1) Kate’s Tree
Katherine “Kate” Bailey was a passionate lady and the doyenne of the Bailey House, a beautiful grand Victorian Ash Street. When she was told the tree in front would have to go in order to make way for the road to be paved, she and her husband tried to convince officials to save it. When their requests were declined, Kate literally took matters into her own hands and took to sitting on the veranda holding a shotgun. Another solution was found that would allow fire trucks to pass on the paved road while saving the tree, with, along with the Bailey House, stand today as a testament to her persistence. (Note that the Spanish moss you see here and on many of our trees in not actually a moss at all, but a plant that is a member of the bromeliad family, making it a relative of the pineapple.)
2) The Bottle Tree
Head to historic American Beach where, from the Burney Park parking lot, you can see good examples of the maritime forest canopy. When exploring the area, keep an eye out for the five bottle trees, part of a tradition that West Africans brought to the Americas during the slave trade. The belief was that bottles hung from trees in the front yard can capture the evil spirits that roam through the night and then release them when the sun rises. According to its creator, Marsha Pelts, a school librarian, “I read Evelyn Coleman’s Glass Bottle Tree Book in 1995, [and] felt a spiritual connection with the beautiful story and the legacy…this is my third bottle tree and it lights up at night.”
3) Plantation Trees
In the late 1960s, the part of Amelia Island where the Omni Amelia Island Plantation now stands was on its way to becoming strip mined for titanium. Charles Fraser and his Sea Pines Company of Hilton Head had a different vision and, when they bought extensive acreage on the south end of the island, they developed a master plan preserving more than 50% of the original property, weaving roads and developments through ancient live oaks. The community they designed serves as an example of how to balance development with the preservation of natural beauty.
Take a look at the many ways you can explore Amelia Island and its natural treasures.