In South Louisiana, live oaks are heritage, heirlooms, and history all rolled into one. More than any other tree or physical aspect of the landscape, the live oak symbolically reflects the most memorable characteristics and qualities of the people that settled this area – strength of character, endurance and longevity. They are a hearty species. And every old oak has a story, sometimes many stories, connected to them during their long lives.
This blog chronicles my search for the 100 oldest live oak trees in Louisiana. To qualify as a centenarian (100-year-old oak) an oak should be at least 17 ft. in circumference. The elder oaks included in this project are primarily “centenarians” – more than 100 years old. Their sizes range from approximately 17 ft. to 40 ft. in circumference and their lives span a time period stretching 100 to 600+ years. Over several human generations.
This project began with a search for the original 43 live oaks that in 1934 became charter members of the Live Oak Society when it was first proposed by Dr. Edwin L. Stephens in an article he wrote for the Louisiana Conservation Review. From my original search, I found that almost 20% of these 43 member trees had been lost in the 75 years since the Society was founded — mostly due to urban expansion, development, and storms.
The posts to this blog will document the trees and their stories. My wife Cyndi and I will post information about and photos of the oaks we locate. We also solicit information from readers and others who may know the location of historic oaks in their area. The ultimate goal of this effort is to raise awareness for the importance of human protection of historic trees since most areas of Louisiana and the South do not have laws protecting these gentle icons of Southern culture from removal or abuse by humans.