The Tree Spirits of St. Simons Island
If you look closely at certain majestic oak trees that cover St. Simons Island, it's possible to find one gazing back at you. Either peering out from the trunk (in-between two huge branches) or from the stub of a long-vanished branch, you may see the unmistakable image of a weathered face. These are the Tree Spirits of St. Simons Island.
What Is the Tree Spirit Mythology?
Legend has it, the images immortalize the countless sailors who lost their lives at sea aboard the mighty sailing ships that were once made from St. Simons Island oak. Their sad, sorrowful expressions seem to reflect the grieving appearance of the trees themselves with their drooping branches and moss.
But if you look a little closer, you can see that there are more than just sailors amongst these tree faces. Artist Keith Jennings attributes the artwork to the spirit of the tree. He and his son Devon carefully carve the faces from the wood; but the father-son duo's artwork simply reveals each tree's soul. According to the senior Jennings, the trees really do all of the work.
Search for them yourself throughout St. Simons Island and come up with your own legends and mythology about these wonderful spirits!
Where Can We Find the Tree Spirits?
There are about 20 tree spirit carvings scattered around St. Simons Island, Georgia, with more being created from time to time. However, many of these are on private property. Still one of the more popular things to do on St. Simons Island, searching for the tree spirits that the public can access is an incredible family-friendly activity all year long!
View our St. Simons Island tree spirits map to find the public ones. Take a family bike ride around the island, spend the day on a long scavenger hunt walk around the island, or participate in other activities along your way. No matter how you find them, the tree spirits won't disappoint!
Don't forget to stop by one of our Golden Isles Welcome Center locations for the most up-to-date information about Tree Spirits and insider knowledge about where the new ones will be popping up!
Where Did These Carvings Come From?
In the 1980's, artist Keith Jennings decided to make his mark on St. Simons Island, carving about 20 faces from the island's famous oak trees. Each unique face is hand-carved, taking the artist between two and four days to complete. In more recent years, Jennings has brought his son Devon to the Island to collaborate on the newest Tree Spirits. It's not surprising that they each have a unique personality and look!
Visit the St. Simons Island Welcome Center to learn more, and ask about new ones that are popping up across the island!
Do The Carvings Harm the Trees?
The locations and placements of the Tree Spirits have been extremely methodical, intentional and in accordance with local experts and arborists. All Tree Spirits commissioned by the Golden Isles CVB have been placed on areas of trees void of living tissue, such as scars left behind by lightning strikes or stumps where a branch has fallen or been removed. It is our priority to never intentionally harm, scar or damage any of our living nature or wildlife.
We work with our artists to ensure the artwork is localized to areas on the tree and trunk surfaces and does not cut any of the callus tissues. This protects the tree from any discernable negative impacts.