This is the time of year when big canopy oaks really shine: their wide crowns tower above the trees around them, their fall color glowing deep browns and burgundies in the sunshine. I decided that I wanted to find some while the color was good. With the amount of development in our area, being able to find accessible big trees can be tough. I remembered one public place where I’ve seen a lot of big oaks: Big Trees Forest Preserve in Sandy Springs.
Big Trees is a 30-acre sanctuary that was assembled beginning in 1990 to save some beautiful trees from nearby development. You can learn more about the history and John Ripley Forbes, the man who started it, here. Big Trees has a system of trails and, if you plan to go, I recommend that you download a copy of the trail map from here as local copies are not always available. Recent improvements include a bathroom at the entrance.
|White oak (Quercus alba)|
From there I usually follow the Powers Branch trail to the Back 20 Connector and then follow the lower branch of the Backcountry trail. This takes you along a creek and through a gorgeous American beech forest (Fagus grandifolia) that was showing color from chalkbark maple (Acer leucoderme) and sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum). About halfway along the path, I take the short Spring Hollow trail to get back to the Powers Branch trail. This follows the gurgling stream back towards the entrance, crossing several bridges and hopping over some sturdy rocks (fun for kids). I passed one family teaching their kids how to skip rocks.
|Chalkbark maple (Acer leucoderme)|
The shrub layer is still chiming in with a little color; I found mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), hearts a bustin’ (Euonymus americanus), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), and the evergreen mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).
|American beech (Fagus grandifolia)|
Enjoy the fall color of the oaks while it lasts. Please spread the word that these big trees are specimens to be treasured. It takes a lifetime to grow one – it takes several lifetimes to appreciate them.