Remarkable Trees Adventure: Cumberland County White Oak

We had an errand to run in Richmond this week, so I pulled out my handwritten remarkable tree list, looking for trees in the Richmond area and I started trying to piece together a “tree itinerary” for the day.  As I studied my county map of Virginia, I realized that Cumberland County is only about an hour from Richmond, and Cumberland County is home to an enormous old white oak.  White oaks (Quercus alba) are a favorite in my family as our Big Ol’ Oak is a white oak, and they are very common in our neck of the woods.  The Cumberland Co. white oak is privately owned, and as I reread the description of it in Remarkable Trees of Virginia, I worried that we wouldn’t be able to find it.  The owner is named in the book, so I “Googled” him.  I was both excited and nervous when a Richmond area phone number popped up with his name.  It was 8:30 p.m. and we were planning this trip for the next day, so I quickly dialed, wondering if I did indeed have the right phone number, and feeling a bit nervous.  The Mr. Johnson I was looking for answered, he was as kind as can be, and even emailed me directions (as Mapquest isn’t aware of the tree 🙂
Realizing that this old white oak tree, with a crown spread of 120 feet and a diameter of over 7,  is likely one of those you only encounter the likes of a few times in your life, I forgot about the other trees on our list for the day and we decided to pack a picnic and spend an entire afternoon at what proved to be the most magnificent tree my children (and possibly Jonny and I) have ever seen.  I believe that for some time every tree we visit will be compared to this tree.
Getting the boys out of the tree long enough to get a group picture was a challenge!
This low branch made this a perfect climbing tree, although Larkspur didn’t go any further than this.
There was nothing I loved more than climbing a tree when I was a child, but this mama got out on that branch and was scared!  It made me especially nervous to sit next to Larkspur like this (see how my legs and feet are gripping the branch) and I quickly handed her down to Jonny and then he pulled me down (like a little girl) too.
Walking across the branch the way the boys did with ease proved to make me nervous.  I remarked that I just didn’t have the same nerves I had as a child and was laughingly branded a “sissy.”
Mr. Johnson mentioned on the phone that there were a couple of old tractors behind the tree on the old homestead that my kids might like to see.  In addition to the tractors, we found a big black snake, but I wasn’t quick enough to get a picture.
(Beatrix had a few cookies with her lunch.)
Can you spot Seth and Keats in this picture?  Gabe is up there too but he was hiding from the camera.
While I was just fine experiencing the tree from my seat at it’s base, the boys plea’s eventually convinced me to stop being a “sissy.”
I didn’t walk across that branch though!  Jonny gave me a boost right next to the trunk (which the boys found hil-ar-i-ous.)  Jonny climbed the tree too, but for some reason the boys always want me to do things they consider daring for me, like climb high into the branches of gigantic trees.  I like to think it’s because they love me and want to share their favorite things with me, but I know it’s also because Gabriel comes from a culture that views women differently than we do here in America.  A common phrase when he first joined our family was “Woman cannot_______” and you fill in that blank with all sorts of things, such as “climb trees.”
But see, there is “woman” high in the tree with her dear boys who kept reaching out to touch me amidst giggles because I had sternly instructed them NOT to touch me!  I was afraid that the smallest bump would send me falling out of the tree which was ridiculous because the base of the branches are so huge you could sleep there.
This morning, I keep getting asked when we are going to visit another tree.  “Soon”, I promise.
This white oak will not soon be forgotten though.


  1. I love your adventure. I am wanting to do a series of images and paintings of Remarkable trees in Watercolor. I am currently working on the Mulberry tree in the Children’s Garden of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. It is as fun to watch the children climb as it is painting.

    Thank you for documenting where some of these trees are–but it is also important to realize that they are changing with the times. Your post about the Tricycle saved me some time because I was going to try to get out there this week. If coming to Richmond, don’t miss the Mulberry in Lewis Ginter Botanical. Other good places to look are Hollywood Cemetery and Maymoumt. Both are great places for kids and old trees.

I love to hear from you!