Finding the Duffie Oak

 The Duffie Oak, a 300-year-old live oak in Mobile, Alabama.

The Duffie Oak, a 300-year-old live oak in Mobile, Alabama.

Sometimes the lesser-known attractions are the best, and finding them is half the fun.

Ellen and I have gone out of our way in our travels to seek out Significant Trees. I found online that one such tree, Duffie’s Oak, could be found in Mobile, Ala. It was at least 300 years old, making it Mobile’s oldest inhabitant, and was said to be of impressive size. But the references we found  - most online citations about the tree seemed cut-and-pasted off of Wikipedia - left out the address. The two people staffing a tourist information center downtown had never heard of it. We all Googled around a bit, then another staff member, older than the other two, came in and said he knew the Duffie Oak very well. It’s on private land, behind an apartment building, he said. The folks who built the apartment building wanted to cut the tree down, but a public outcry stopped them.   

It’s still there, on the 1100 block of Caroline Street, the widest tree I’ve ever seen. Its branches cross the narrow street, touch the ground and go up again. Its roots roll across the landscape. It is a climbing tree like no other - a hundred people could climb it at once. It’s tucked away on a tiny street of circa 1903 shotgun houses, and it seems to be thriving.

Definitely worth the visit.

 That's me, putting the Duffie Oak in perspective.

That's me, putting the Duffie Oak in perspective.

 A tree on the same street, showing signs of the recently-ended Mardi Gras.

A tree on the same street, showing signs of the recently-ended Mardi Gras.