On The Trail Of Our Elders
Dr. Edwin Lewis Stephens, the first president of the University of Southwestern Louisiana Institute, now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, was inspired by a Walt Whitman poem and started possibly the first organization for live oak trees.
As in the trees are the members.
After reading Whitman’s “I Saw in Louisiana a Live Oak Growing,” Stephens began the Live Oak Society in 1934. To be a member of the society, an oak must be more than 100 years old. The older the tree, the more opportunity for leadership in the organization. For example, the Live Oak Society president is the Seven Sisters Oak in the Louisburg area of Mandeville, north of New Orleans.
There are humans involved, naturally, but only to determine if a tree is eligible.
There are more than 400 live oak trees in Lafourche Parish that have been registered as notable oaks by the society, with more than 100 of those more than a century old and some more than 500 years old! To highlight these majestic giants, the parish offers a Lafourche Live Oak driving tour that follows Bayou Lafourche. Simply visit the tour’s website and click on the map. Each stop is highlighted by the tree’s name and contains information to the tree’s location and history. Many of the oaks are located on private property, so follow directions and only physically visit the ones open to the public.
Some of the oaks you’ll meet include:
The Grenier Oak at Forest Grove Plantation, one of the first of 43 inductee oaks to the Live Oak Society in 1934 with a girth of 19 feet, 10 inches. The oak is named for Joseph Louis Viateur “Cap” Grenier, once president of the Bayou Lafourche Baseball Association.
The Boudreaux Oak at 2049 Louisiana Hwy. 1, one of the two oldest oaks on the tour with a girth of 29 feet, 1 inch.
Numerous old live oaks dot the landscape at New Hope Plantation at 4535 Louisiana Hwy. 308, possibly planted there in the late 1700s when the plantation was established.
The E.D. White Historic Site, part of the Louisiana State Museum system, includes a grove of eight live oaks registered with the Live Oak Society. The oldest, the E.D. White Oak, stretches more than 25 feet in girth and believed to be more than 400 years old.
Forty-five live oaks were moved from Georgia Plantation near Labadieville to Nicholls State University campus in the 1950s, planted along Acadia Drive and Madewood Drive and along Audubon Avenue on the north side of campus. Although they are not as old as their tree brethren, they are nevertheless a beautiful sight to behold.
The tour website contains gorgeous photos of each tree, taken by William Guion who’s been documenting Louisiana’s live oaks that are at least 100 years old. The shot contained in this blog post is from Waverly Plantation, home to several live oaks at 1851 Louisiana Hwy. 1, approximately 3.9 miles from downtown Thibodaux. You can read more about the photographer and his 100 Oak Projects here. To get started on the tour, visit liveoaktour.com.