This is another lesser-known old oak and one of my personal favorites. It grows on the grounds of Afton Villa Gardens, in St. Francisville, Louisiana. It is in the 23’ to 24’ circumference range, and was reportedly planted between 1820 and 1839 by Bartholomew Barrow, the first member of the Barrow family to purchase and settle this land. The oak is registered with the Live Oak Society and has a distinctive shape, size and bushy texture formed by the thick resurrection fern growing profusely on its limbs. It’s located in front of the Afton Villa ruins near the end of the ½ mile long alley of oaks leading from Louisiana state Highway 61 to the gardens.
This little known, but magnificent oak is located on Songy Court, on the west bank of the Mississippi River, behind the historic Bacas House which was built around 1840–1850. The property has been in the Bacas family since 1895 when Alcide Bacas purchased it from Willis Becnel. It’s likely that the oak was already mature when the Bacas house was built. The property is today part of the small community of Wallace, just downriver from Edgard, Louisiana.
The oak is approximately 25’ in circumference with a ropy twisting trunk and a huge crown that is nearly 200 feet wide. It has the classic upside-down bowl shape with long drooping limbs that reach to the ground, distinct to a live oak that grows away from competing trees.
This area along the west bank of the Mississippi River is part of the first German settlements along the Mississppi River, called the German Coast. Wikipedia has a good description of the history of this area.
The Bacas Oak lost a major limb in late 2009, or early 2010. This image was made during the summer of 2010. I had searched for this tree for several years. Having only rough directions to go by, I was unable to locate it because it’s drooping limbs completely hid it’s trunk. From River Road it appeared to be a grove of oaks instead of a single tree. It was only after the tree lost a major limb, revealing almost a third of its interior limbs, that I was able to locate and photograph it. This view is from the south side of the tree, the opposite side from where the limb was lost.
The Andrew oak is one of the most distinctively shaped trees in the 350-plus year-old alley of oaks at Oak Alley Plantation. It is the #6 tree in the east row counting from the plantation home’s front porch. Its trunk has several large burls that create odd profiles when viewed from different angles. Its girth is approximately 28’ 5”.
The oak is named after Andrew Stewart, who with his wife Josephine were the last individuals to own the plantation and who undertook its adaptive restoration in 1925. Before Jospehine’s death, 26 years after Andrew, Mrs. Stewart established the Oak Alley Foundation to preserve and protect the plantation home and its alley of historic oaks. The Foundation still manages the care of the alley, the plantation home and the property on which they’re located. Zeb Mayhew, grandnephew of the Stewarts, is administrative director of Oak Alley.
The plantation, located 3-4 miles upriver from Vacherie, Louisiana, was originally named Bon Sejour by Jacques Telesphore Roman’s wife. Roman was the French planter who built the home on land that was purchased from his brother-in-law and neighbor, Valcour Aime, who at the time was one of the wealthiest men in the South.
The trees at Oak Alley are probably the most photographed group of oaks in the world.
The Josephine oak, named after Mrs. Josephine Stewart, is the largest in the alley of 28 oaks at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, LA. This immense tree is approximately 31’ in circumference, more than 70’ tall, and with a crown spread of approximately 150’.
It is in the west row of 14 trees in the historic alley. Oddly, most people assume the oaks at Oak Alley were planted at the same time that the plantation home was built between 1836–1839. However, it’s estimated that the trees pre-date the plantation home by as many as 100 years, making this the oldest alley of oaks in Louisiana and the U.S., possibly older than 350 years of age.
All of the trees in the alley at Oak Alley are registered members of the Live Oak Society.
The McDonogh Oak is the largest and oldest oak in New Orleans’ City Park. Along with the Anseman Oak and Suicide Oak, it is part of an ancient oak forest that was hundreds of years old in 1718 when brothers Iberville and Bienville first scouted this area for a portage of bayous connecting the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. This natural system of waterways was a deciding factor for the brothers choice of this location to create the settlement that became New Orleans.
City Park was once part of the Jean Louis Allard Plantation, originally established in the 1770’s, and later purchased in 1845 by shipping magnate and philanthropist John McDonogh. Upon his death in 1850, McDonogh donated the land to the City of New Orleans and in 1854 a large section was designated as a city park. According to park records, in 1958, the National Park and Recreation Convention met in New Orleans and hosted a breakfast for 1,028 convention attendees under the massive canopy of the McDonogh Oak’s limbs.
In 1981, the ancient oak lost a major branch, causing severe damage. Extensive tree surgery was done and posts were added to help support the remaining main limbs. The McDonogh Oak’s circumference is more than 25 ft., and its crown spread is more than 150 ft.