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Southern Live Oak Trees and “Old Ironsides”

Who doesn’t love a good old oak tree? People for generations have enjoyed countless afternoons climbing the branches of oak trees, building treehouses and forts up in the branch rafters, and swinging from tire or rope swings beneath their magnificent canopies. Couples and families alike spread picnic blankets under the shade of oak trees for a day of revelry and fun. Oaktree lumber makes beautiful, solid furniture. The timber from felled oaks creates sturdy boards for building all sorts of things.

Our nation’s founding fathers believed oak trees to be strong enough for the lumber to build the first commissioned naval ships of our new foundling nation. One of these vessels, the U.S.S. Constitution, was a wooden-hulled, three-masted, war-armed frigate. It was named by none other than George Washington himself after the Constitution of the United States of America. The U.S.S. Constitution met other naval ships in battle during the Quasi-War, the First Barbary Wars, and the War of 1812, among many others.

During the War of 1812 on August 19, it met the HMS Guerriere upon the high seas – a French naval vessel which was captured by the British. During an open fire exchange between the two ships, the Constitution received little damage. The British were astonished as cannon balls rebounded harmlessly off the side of the ship, but left the exchange left the HMS Guerriere so damaged it wasn’t even worth towing to port! An American sailor is said to have exclaimed, “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!” Thus the U.S.S. Constitution was dubbed the nickname of “Old Ironsides.”

CannonBalls for Years
What made the cannonballs rebound off the side of the ship without splintering a single beam? “Old Ironsides” and her sister ships were built with intentions of quality and durability which stood the test of time. Incredibly strong southern live oak timber fitted both the hull and the framing of the ship. The beautiful, wide-reaching hardwood of the southern live oak tree has a density of 75 pounds per cubic foot, making it denser than water, which measures at 62.4 pounds per cubic foot. The density of southern live oak hardwood is also heavier than most other commonly used timbers used for various sorts of construction, making it an ideal candidate for heavy-weight shipbuilding. The builders of “Old Ironsides” also used internal braces made of individual trees, resulting in a magnificently robust warship that deflected cannonballs as if made of iron.

Southern live oak trees are long living trees, sometimes living up to 400 years old. This is why the Tree Service Wichita KS companies LOVE them so much. They produce acorns at age 20, enjoyed by wildlife of all sorts including turkeys, deer, squirrels, ducks, and jays. Their branches extend broader than any other species of oak tree. The name “live oak” is derived from the fact that the southern live oak tree remains “alive” and green during the winter when most other oak trees become leafless and lie dormant. It is no wonder the American founders chose the southern live oak to protect our new nation!