Treasured Trees of Amelia Island

May 2, 2015
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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 maritime canopy is made up of Live Oak, Palm, Hickory, Southern Magnolia, Red Cedar and Pine with an understory that includes Wax Myrtle, a variety of Holly, Sparkeberry and Beautyberry. All together they create a microclimate that is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and also work to temper the effects of wind and water on the island's dunes and beaches.

We're proud of our trees here and the Amelia Tree Conservancy does much to protect them. Take a look at some of our more famous trees around Amelia Island.

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.)

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."

Resort Trees

In the late 1960s, the part of Amelia Island where the Omni Amelia Island Resort now stands was on its way to becoming strip mined for titanium.  Charles Fraser and his Sea Pines Company of Hilton Head Island 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.

Fort Clinch Oak

If trees could talk! This massive moss-draped oak located on the main road going into Fort Clinch State Park has certainly seen it's share of history. The park's 1100 acres include the 19th-century Fort Clinch, biking and hiking trails, camping, beachcombing, sunbathing, swimming, and surf fishing. Visitors to the park can take part in a guided nature walk around Willow Pond trail, which winds through a coastal maritime hammock down to fresh water ponds. Through an informative presentation, visitors will discover a wide variety of native plants, trees and animals that call the park home. 

Take a look at the many ways you can explore Amelia Island and its natural treasures.  

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Located just off the coast of northeast Florida, Amelia Island is easy to reach, but hard to forget. With 13 miles of beautiful beaches, abundant native wildlife, and pristine waters, this barrier island has long been a beloved destination for visitors and residents alike.