The Seven Brothers Oak is located west of Washington, Louisiana on Hwy. 103. The mailbox at the entrance to the old Lastrapes homestead is #398. The large live oak is well-maintained in the open space fronting the road.
Referred to as the “Seven Sisters” by the Live Oak Society‘s founder, Dr. Edwin Lewis Stephens, in an article published in the Louisiana Conservation Review (April 1934)–and not to be confused with the Live Oak Society’s current President, the Seven Sisters Oak, in St. Tammany parish–the old oak is best known today as the “Seven Brothers Oak” and is listed as the “Lastrapes” oak on the Society’s Top 100 list. The Seven Brothers Oak is the seventh tree listed in Dr. Stephens’ article and is #9 on the Live Oak Society’s registry.
The tree’s girth (circumference) was reported in two sections by Dr. Stephens in 1934 (27’3” and 26’4”), due to the configuration of the multi-trunk system. One section of the system (the larger measurement) had a severed trunk.
The trunk section measurements on Nov. 11, 2007 were:
32’3” Section nearest to the road (including the severed trunk)
28’11” Section nearest to the fence
History: There is more than one story about this particular tree (or group of trees). On our expedition, the person who currently maintains the tree and grounds of the Lastrapes homestead explained that it had been planted and named for the seven Lastrapes brothers who had left home to fight in the Civil War. In another variation of the story, described in Ethelyn Orso’s Louisiana Live Oak Lore, the birth of his seventh son prompted Jean Henri Lastrapes to request that seven oaks be planted; the workers arrived late in the day with the seedlings and temporarily put them in one container (or hole). The business of the days that followed in the cotton fields distracted the workers from ever completing the planting task—and thus the trees grew together, sharing the close proximity of their original planting site.
Photo Notes: The skies were alternately sunny and cloudy, as the afternoon thunderheads passed by; so Bill had some wonderful light to photograph the various aspects of the old oak in black & white with his view camera, while Cyndi photographed the nearby cottage. Although timeworn and no longer in use, the structure seemed content to remain as it was, in the company of its venerable friend.
Cyndi’s Nature Notes: A frequent visitor to the live oak, a golden silk orb-weaver spider (Nephilia clavipes), also known as the “banana spider”, had created a web amongst the lower branches of the tree.
Orso, Ethelyn G; Louisiana Live Oak Lore (pg. 77-78); The Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana; Lafayette, LA 1992.