ORLANDO, Fla. — Amid Orlando’s exponential growth, The City Beautiful has maintained formidable foliage in the form of trees, mostly of the southern live oak variety.
In fact, the beautiful canopy of trees that can be witnessed when walking, biking or driving around historic downtown neighborhoods is part of the reason behind the name, “The City Beautiful.” Orlando first earned this nickname amid a beautification and renaming drive in the early 1900s.
To this day, these living remnants of history are still scattered around the city and can be viewed on a tour of Orlando’s “significant trees.” Seven stops present a scenic scavenger hunt on this timber tour of sorts.
This is an excursion spanning 6 miles from start to finish, or an 11-mile round trip, that can be taken by bike with some caution while navigating the city’s busy intersections. Or curious explorers can check these off one-by-one over time.
There’s no prize for completing this adventure, but you will emerge with a better understanding of just how interconnected Orlando’s history, nature and neighborhoods are.
Stop 1: Mayor Carl T. Langford Park
This 19-acre urban green space is named after the former Orlando mayor and designed as a place to protect and showcase plants and urban wildlife.
In addition to several varieties of oak trees, the park is home to swamp chestnut trees.
Address: 1608 E. Central Blvd. in Orlando
Stop 2: Dickson Azalea Park
This hidden gem of a park, set in the Lawsona/Fern Creek neighborhood of Orlando, sits right across from Langford Park and features a shady ravine lush with Floridian flora. The site is commonly used for photography but would also make a nice venue for a picnic.
While the park’s azaleas bloom in early spring and present picturesque scenery, another notable aspect of this park is the longleaf pine trees that tower over live oaks. These trees are thought to be about 100 years old.
Address: 100 Rosearden Drive in Orlando
Stop 3: Constitution Green Park
At this downtown Orlando stop near South Street and Summerlin Avenue, find a towering live oak tree thought to be 125-175 years old.
This tree has “recumbent branching” on one side with limbs touching the ground. These only spread out in one direction because of another tree that was on the opposite side, forcing the branches to grow the other way.
Feel free to bring your furry friend for this stop, as the park also has a fenced dog run.
Address: 300 S. Summerlin Ave. in Orlando
Stop 4: Lake Eola Park
Thinking about Lake Eola Park might conjure up images of swans, swan boats, the Orlando Farmers Market or the colorful Walt Disney Amphitheater.
But this Orlando outdoor gem also features large live oaks that provide ample shade for visitors on the side of the park facing Central Boulevard. Stop to admire these formidable trees on your next visit.
Address: 195 N. Rosiland Ave. in Orlando
Stop 5: Big Tree Park
Some parks highlight big trees as part of the outdoor space’s floral makeup. At the aptly-named Big Tree Park, the magnificent live oak is the focal point and comprises almost the entire park.
This tree is thought to be the oldest in Orlando and has been standing tall for the past 350-400 years. It feels like a sign of reverence that the city dedicated this space just to such a superior specimen.
Address: 930 N. Thornton Ave. in Orlando
Stop 6: Harry P. Leu Gardens
Orlando’s 50-acre botanical oasis, Leu Gardens, stands out on this tour for several reasons. Unfortunately, it’s the only stop that isn’t free to enter. However, visitors can see much more than just trees when spending time in the gardens.
Leu Gardens is highlighted due to the towering camphor trees that lined the driveway when Harry P. Leu resided within the urban green space. Native to China and Japan, these trees are impressive and preserved as historical specimens but considered invasive.
There’s another significant tree within the gardens, tucked out of view just behind the welcome center near Lake Rowena. It’s a sapling taken from the “Survivor Tree” that survived the 9/11 attack in New York, donated to Orlando following the Pulse tragedy.
Address: 1920 N. Forest Ave. in Orlando
Stop 7: Loch Haven Park
Of all the impressive trees in Orlando, “The Mayor” certainly stands at or near the top of the list. This more than 300-year-old live oak tree sits nearby the Mennello Museum of American Art and long predates Orlando’s status as a city.
An informational display near the tree, which has limbs hanging to the ground on all sides, details how the Mayaca Native Americans inhabited Central Florida when the tree was a sapling. When the tree had grown up to about 50 feet tall, roughly a third of its current height, the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Living history indeed.
Address: 900 E. Princeton St. in Orlando
For more information, visit orlando.gov.