Seven Sisters Oak (Doby’s Seven Sisters)

Doby's Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters Oak, President, Live Oak Society.  National big tree champion for Quercus virginiana. Hand-painted photo from black and white original.

The Seven Sisters Oak resides in Lewisburg, LA (near Mandeville) at a private residence.  The historic and beautiful live oak is the President of the Live Oak Society, a unique organization whose members are all trees, with the exception of the Secretary or Chairman (currently is Coleen Perilloux Landry), who registers live oaks that are submitted for new membership and maintains the now 75-year-old roster.  The Seven Sisters Oak was elected in 1968 and is the current President and largest tree in the Society.

Registration & Measurements:  Originally registered as Doby’s Seven Sisters (#200), the live oak’s first sponsors were the Doby family, who then owned the property.  The name was changed and the tree re-registered as the Seven Sisters Oak (#697).  When the live oak was first registered (as Doby’s Seven Sisters), the girth was recorded as 36 feet, 1 inch.  It is an enormous tree, measuring approximately 55 feet high, with a limb spread of more than 130 feet.   Its circumference was 37 feet, 6 inches, when measured in 1986 and on the “Society’s Top 100″ list in 2003, the girth of the Seven Sisters Oak was recorded as 38 feet (a more recent measurement placed the girth at 39′ 11″) .  The magnificent tree is a worthy successor to the Locke Breaux Oak, the first President of the Live Oak Society, deceased 1966-68 due to air and groundwater pollution.

Doby's Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters Oak – November 2007 (photo by Cynthia Nelson)

Titles:  For years, the eligibility of the Seven Sisters Oak as a Live Oak Society member and principal officer was disputed because it was believed to be several separate trees growing together.  In 1976, after inspection by federal foresters, the tree was proved to have a single root system; and its status as President was accepted without further contest, by virtue of its girth (the greatest measurement of all live oaks then registered with the Society). The confirmation of the single trunk system also granted the Seven Sisters Oak the undisputed title of National Champion Live Oak in the American Forestry Association’s National Register of Big Trees.

7-Sisters-C_full-view

Seven Sisters Oak, view from north

History:  The origin of the name, Seven Sisters, is lost in the obscurity of time and memory.  One current story is that the name describes seven main trunks that comprise the single tree.  Yet, the oak actually has more than seven trunks that split from its immense base in two clusters.  Another speculation is that the name is a translation of an older Choctaw Indian name that’s now forgotten.  The Choctaws were residents of this area for many years before white men arrived and a tree of this size would possibly have been well known and named by them.

Many Choctaws of the Lewisburg/Mandeville area were converted to Christianity by Father Adrein-Emmanuel Rouquette who preached the Christian gospel to the Indians under the limbs of live oaks, quite probably under this tree.  Father Rouquette was a French Creole from New Orleans, educated in Kentucky and Paris, France.  He so loved the woods near his childhood home along Bayou St. John in New Orleans that after completing his formal education, he returned not to New Orleans, but to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and the company of the trees.  There, preaching under the oaks, he felt more plainly God’s touch on the land and saw more clearly the light of His gospel reflected in the eyes and hearts of his congregation.

Seven Sisters Oak, view from south side, Lewisburg / Mandeville, LA

Seven Sisters Oak, view from south side, Lewisburg / Mandeville, LA

Sept. 2010 update:  Ms. Coleen Perilloux Landry says the Live Oak Society records reflect that “The Seven Sisters Oak was given its name because the owner at the time was one of seven sisters. It was  Mrs. Doby who gave the oak its name.  When it was named President of the Live Oak Society, the governor of Louisiana was present. The Marine Band played and a ballet troupe danced around its roots. Wooden doubloons with the tree’s name were given to everyone present.”

About William Guion

fine-art photographer, writer, editor
This entry was posted in 100 Oaks Project oaks - Bill & Cyndi's list, Live oak (Quercus virginiana) and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Seven Sisters Oak (Doby’s Seven Sisters)

  1. Donna says:

    It says (in your blog) that the 7 Sisters Oak is located in Lewisburg LA. That town is by Opelousas–is that where the oak is?

    • Donna, thanks for your note. This same question came up from an editor at Louisiana Life when I was writing an article for them several years ago. I’m not sure of any Lewisburg near Opelousas, and I can’t find it on the state map? If you do a Google map search for Lewisburg in Louisiana, it will show Lewisburg as a historic neighborhood of Mandeville, located immediately west of the Causeway where the Causeway meets the Northshore. Once a community or village, now it’s no more than just a neighborhood with a sign noting its historical name.

      When you’re dealing with oaks that are several hundred years old, I find it’s not unusual that oaks outlive the communities that grow up and then fade around them. I’ve experienced this numerous times while searching for oaks registered with the Live Oak Society 50 to 70 years ago.
      Thanks for reading the blog.

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