Old Oaks in Baton Rouge
The Governor’s Oak (Live Oak Society registry #2364) was one of those oaks that made my job feel more like a detective’s than a photographer’s. The Society’s registry lists the oak’s location as simply Baton Rouge. And with a name like “Governor’s Oak,” I assumed it must be growing somewhere near the Governor’s mansion or at least the old state capitol grounds where I had found other LOS member oaks.
After several unsuccessful trips in search of this venerable oak, I finally contacted the folks from Baton Rouge Green, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring Baton Rouge area residents to conserve, plant and sustain local trees. They were able to unearth from their files a 1999 Sunday Advocate newspaper article featuring the Governor’s Oak and the efforts of several local families to save it from being removed to make way for development.
The 34-plus foot girth oak grows off historic Highland Road near Interstate 10 on property that was being subdivided for home lots in 1999. The developer was planning to remove either the sprawling old oak or a smaller adjacent oak to more evenly split up the property parcels. Fortunately, three families stepped in and purchased two parcels of land on which the oaks grew to save both of them. Bill and Suzanne Terrell purchased one lot for their future home and together with Alvin and Carlissa Bargas and Bill and Kathy Lovell the three families bought the neighboring lot containing the two oaks.
When the Governor’s Oak was registered with the Live Oak Society by the three couples, it measured 33’-3”. My measurement in 2015 put it a bit closer to 35′, but my measurement was very rough because the trunk of the tree is now covered in poison ivy, which made for delicate and itchy measuring conditions. I still don’t know why the tree is named the “Governor’s Oak” but I’ll amend this post in the future if my research turns up the source.
While tracking down the Governor’s Oak, I discovered that the Highland Road area east and west of I-10 is rich with old and beautiful live oak specimens that have survived development. According to Wikipedia, “historic Highland Road was originally established as a supply road for the indigo and cotton plantations of the early settlers.”
Not far east along Highland Road from the Governor’s Oak, I located the Ole Glory Oak (LOS registry #4592).
This 30-something oak grows within a grove of old oaks on the property of John and Michelle Sparks. The oak’s sponsor is listed in the LOS registry as the Country Club of Louisiana Garden Club. Ole Glory Oak was originally registered with a girth of 28’-1”. My measurement placed it closer to 27’-8”, but the tree is situated on a slope, making it awkward to accurately identify a level “waist” near 4.5 ft. from the ground. The boxes in the black and white image above are bee hives—Mr. Sparks, who owns the property on which Ole Glory is located, is a beekeeper.
(Next post – How to measure live oaks.)