President' live oak lived over 300 years in LA

By Flora Newsom
Contributing Writer

Louisiana's first "President," Locke Breaux Oak, was registered as a charter member of the Live Oak Society of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation, Inc., in 1934. Locke Breaux Oak was the largest known live oak tree in the U.S. with a girth of 36 feet and a canopy limb span of 172 feet.

It is believed "The President" sprouted in 1657, and according to records of the Live Oak Society, the majestic live oak succumbed after the mid-1960s and prior to May of 1968.

Locke Breaux Oak flourished more than 300 years in Taft, Louisiana, in St. Charles parish north of New Orleans, on property belonging to Colonial Dairy Products.

Louisiana's second and reigning President, the Seven Sisters Oak, was inaugurated May 11, 1968. Seven Sisters Oak thrives at Lewisburg, Louisiana, near the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in St. Tammany Parish.

Seven Sisters is recognized as the largest certified live oak tree, with a girth of 38 feet, and is estimated by foresters to be more than 1,200 years old. Seven Sisters Oak is recognized as Champion Oak of Louisiana by the Louisiana Forestry Association, honored as National Champion, and is believed to be the oldest North American live oak.

The live oak tree is one of the most impressive trees in North America, and ranks as one of the strongest and heaviest native hardwoods, weighing 55 pounds per cubic foot when air-dried. Wood of the live oak tree is yellowish brown, tough, hard, heavy, and difficult to split. The wood is used where strength and durability are needed, such as structural beams, shipbuilding, and posts.

History reveals that Andrew Jackson took shelter under the canopy of Louisiana's Sunnybrook Oaks in Covington, LA, in 1814, while on his way to the Battle of New Orleans. Six of the Sunnybrook Oaks were included in the first 500 live oaks registered by the Live Oak Society. More than 4,000 live oaks are now registered by the Society and can be found in 14 states.

The USS Constitution earned the name "Old Ironsides," from the strength of its hull made of live oak wood. The strong wood repeatedly repelled British cannonballs bouncing them off the hull of the American frigate. "Old Ironsides" hull was never pierced in more than 33 battles. According to internet research, Old Ironsides, the world's oldest commissioned warship, was restored using live oak wood and set sail on Monday, July 21, 1997, after having been idle and inoperable for 116 years.

Live oak trees thrive in the coastal Southeastern United States. The massive, majestic limbs always are draped with weeping garlands of Spanish moss. Lie oak trees produce an abundance of sweet edible acorns that feed birds, including wild turkeys, wood ducks, and quails. Whitetail deer, raccoons, wild hogs, and squirrels also feast on acorns from the live oak trees.