Welcome to the 100 Oaks Project

 

ed-white-oak-panorama_11-8

E.D. White Oak, near Thibodaux LA

I’ve photographed live oaks and the Southern landscape for more than 30 years. 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 in South Louisiana, the live oak symbolically reflects the most memorable characteristics of the people that settled this area – strength of character, endurance and longevity.

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 range generally from approximately 17 ft. to 40 ft. in circumference and range in age from 100 to 600+ years.

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 are abuse by humans.

16 thoughts on “Welcome to the 100 Oaks Project

  1. I am a cousin of Virginia Moseley, who lives part of the year on Avery Island. At some point I would like to discuss you photographing another of our oaks here on the Island.

  2. WOW! I graduated USL (Fine Arts) in 1971.
    Very partial to Louisiana and Texas landscape/topography.
    Any Texas oak trees in portfolio? Houston oaks? Austin’s Treaty Oak?

    • Thanks for your comment and support of the 100 Oaks Project. The history and culture of the oaks goes hand-in-hand with the genealogy of the Gulf Coast region’s residents. We will continue–with the help of the individuals and organizations who have planted, tended and admired the trees for generations–to document the survivors and the deceased, in order to raise awareness of the importance of these icons for current and future generations.

  3. Your blog, photos and historical notes are just amazing! I appreciate the time taken and love with which you have addressed our beautiful Louisiana Oaks. Thank you!

  4. Is there any way of getting a map of the named oaks in City Park in New Orleans? We are planning an Earth Day bike ride there and would like to have the riders visit the famous oaks to increase their appreciation of nature. Because what is more wonderful than a beautiful live oak tree!

  5. I’ve enjoyed perusing your 100 Oaks posting… you have some outstanding B+W imagery of these magnificent, natural specimens. I myself have been working for the past 2 years on a similar, but much less ambitious effort, to record and describe the unique features of the Southern Live tree for publication as an eBook sometime in early 2014, assuming all goes well. My publication will be very general and broad in nature, geographically limited to Florida, with only limited references to ancient or large specimen oaks. I would like to request that, unless you have any specific objections, I would like to include a short notation reference to your Blog in my Resources/Links section of my pending publication.

    William, I wish you well in your continuing documentary efforts, and best regards !

    Joe

    • I have a live oak in Victoria County Texas that I believe is a bona fide contender for one of the oldest trees in the state. I would very much like to get this oak registed

  6. Mike, your best option for Live Oak Tree registration based on my book research is to work thru the Louisiana Garden Club’s “Live Oak Society” ( Link here – http://www.lgcfinc.org/live-oak-society.html ). Contact Coleen directly if you have specific questions on documentation and filling out the paperwork. Also, William Gion lives in Texas and may be able to assist you based on his own extensive past experience on the subject. Hope this is of some help to you. Regards, Joe

  7. Love this project. I reside along the old Teche Ridge on the banks of the Bayou Teche. I have a Live Oak Tree (THE LEBLANC OAK) you may be interested in. Located at 6553 Hwy 87 in Charenton, St. Mary Parish, LA. My family has lived here since 1905 and this oak has been here before that time.

  8. My wife Beryl & I treasure your book “Heartwood”. The pairing of your photos of LA live oaks with Rumi’s poetry is wonderful. I also treasure Rumi’s poetry. One of my favorites is in your book on p. 52.
    Another is attributed to Rumi via oral tradition, according to an email from Coleman Barks:
    “Love is the religion. The universe is the book.” Thank you for your artistry. I grew up in Lake Charles, and my father’s generation owned a working farm on the western bank of Lake Arthur. My dad also had a hunting camp in Grand Chenier. Your photos remind me of the remnants of the wild in the rural SOWELA area where I grew up.
    – Mike Hebert, Baton Rouge, LA USA

  9. Having been born and raised in south Louisiana, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for our beautiful and magnificent live oaks. There are several plantations in the area that boast 150 plus year old oaks that are so amazing! I have also been to Oak Alley along the Mississippi River and marvel at the beauty of these trees. I didn’t realize until reading your article that these trees are about 350 years old…wow! My grandfather, dad and uncles planted live oaks in a row along the front and back our family property about 50 years ago. We now own 13 of these trees. I look at them often and wonder how many will be here in the future for my great-great-grandchildren to enjoy! I try to imagine what they would look like in 200 years or more…love my trees!!!! Thank you so much for your work on capturing the beauty of these trees and for all the work involved with cataloging them for reference! How can one stand beneath these magnificent wonders of nature and not believe that they are gifts to behold from God?

    • Rebekah, I have thought about this subject myself seriously, since I’ve spent a great deal of the past 10 years tracking down old / historic live oaks across the state. My personal opinion is that a mapping project that focuses on historic or interesting oaks in parks and public spaces would be useful, however, mapping oaks that live on privately owned land would not be a great idea for the welfare of the oaks and their owner/caretakers.

      Most folks that I’ve contacted about photographing oaks on their property are generally OK with one person, working on a specific photo project going on their land with respectful intentions. But opening their property to a regular stream of tourists and curious individuals is not something they care to deal with (and I can’t blame them — it opens them up to all sorts of legal issues).

      Then there’s the other issue of a mapping project unintentionally providing directions to psycho crazies who want to do damage to old trees for whatever twisted reason. Though this group comprises a small percentage of the population, I prefer not to give them any tool that helps them focus their negativity on live oaks, which are threatened enough from developers and the ongoing wave of land-clearing in the name of “progress.”

      So, if you still undertake your project, I caution you — most old oaks are probably better left unfound, and for those intrepid folks who want to make the extra effort to find old trees for their personal appreciation, they can do the extra research and leg-work that I’ve done. I feel the oaks are better off this way.

      Best, Bill Guion

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