Seven Sisters Oak (Doby’s Seven Sisters)

Seven Sisters color 4_7x13

Seven Sisters Oak, current President of the Live Oak Society and the American Forestry Association’s National “Big Tree Champion” for the species Quercus virginiana.

The Seven Sisters Oak resides in Lewisburg, LA (a small neighborhood community in 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 at 36 feet, 1 inch.  It is an enormous tree, measuring approximately 55 feet high, with a limb spread of more than 130 feet.  In 1986, its circumference was measured at 37 feet, 6 inches; in 2003, the circumference was recorded at 38 feet; and a more recent measurement placed the girth at 39 feet 11 inches.  This magnificent tree is a worthy successor to the Locke Breaux Oak, the first President of the Live Oak Society, which died in 1966-68 due to air and groundwater pollution along the Mississippi River. To view vintage photographs of the Locke Breaux Oak go to the blog post “Revisiting the Lock Breaux Oak.”

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Seven Sisters Oak, north view toward house, 2016

Titles:  For years, the eligibility of the Seven Sisters Oak as a Live Oak Society member and the 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.

Seven Sisters color 4_7x13 copy

Seven Sisters Oak, color study, 2016

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.

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Seven Sisters Oak, infrared black-and-white study, 2016

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, black-and-white study circa 1990

Sept. 2010 update:  According to Ms. Coleen Perilloux Landry, 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 current name. When the tree was designated President of the Live Oak Society, the governor of Louisiana was present at the special event. The Marine Band played and a ballet troupe danced around its roots. Wooden doubloons with the tree’s name imprinted on it were given to everyone present.”


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