Locke Breaux Oak

Taft, Louisiana – St. Charles Parish

Locke Breaux Oak, first President

Locke Breaux Oak, first President of the Live Oak Society

The Locke Breaux Oak in Taft, Louisiana, was the first President and a founding member of the Live Oak Society, a unique organization whose members are all live oaks (Quercus virginiana).  The society operates under the auspices of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation, Inc. today; and the tree association includes only one human, the acting Secretary (currently Coleen Perilloux Landry, “Chairman”), who maintains the roster of past, present, and future tree members, as they are registered.


The Locke Breaux Oak was a beautiful giant, named after the Locke and Breaux families, descendents of English philosopher, John Locke.  Dr. Edwin Lewis Stephens, founder of the Live Oak Society, in an article in the Louisiana Conservation Review (April 1934), begins his list of 43 live oaks proposed for membership in a tree “Association” with a description of the Locke Breaux Oak:

“First on the list, and most outstanding timber of the highest rank in the Association, is the Locke Breaux Live Oak, on the right bank of the Mississippi River, four miles above Hahnville in St. Charles Parish…This is the largest live oak I ever saw.  Its girth four feet above the ground is 35 feet; its height about 75 feet; its spread 166 feet, when I measured it on January 22, 1932, in company with my friend, its owner, the late Samuel Locke Breaux of New Orleans.”

The age of the Locke Breaux Oak has been estimated by various sources.  Ethelyn G. Orso’s Louisiana Live Oak Lore (published by  The Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, Louisiana) indicates that:

“According to legend, in 1682 LaSalle and his band of explorers knelt beneath it to give thanks for their safe journey down the Mississippi River.  The Locke Breaux Oak was estimated to be between 300 and 400 years old.”

A description of the Locke Breaux Oak is also found on the reverse of a postcard printed with a color image of the tree (photo by Hubert A. Lowman), which we purchased, with many thanks, from Billy’s Postcards).

Description of the Locke Breaux Oak

Postcard of the Locke Breaux Oak - description on reverse

Beneath the bold title, the postcard states,

“This magnificent tree, the oldest live oak known, sprouted in 1657.”

and further describes the setting:

“A convenient road circles the tree and picnic facilities are provided by the Colonial Dairy, on whose property it grows.”

The Locke Breaux Oak is now deceased, its demise 1966-1968 due to air and ground water pollution, testimony to the need for more rigorous means of protection for other oaks of environmental, cultural, historic and aesthetic significance.  The live oak’s original sponsor, Colonial Dairy Farm, was sold to a chemical company, one of many that began to flourish in the parish after the discovery of oil within the region, which resulted in a shift from agriculture to industry.  The former Live Oak Society president remains #1 in the roster; and its impact on the landscape and contribution to history are known today, by those who were never privileged to view it in person, thanks to the individuals and organizations that recognized its grandeur and significance, and paused to record it, as well as to preserve the records.

The second and current President of the Live Oak Society, the Seven Sisters Oak in Lewisburg, LA (near Mandeville), was elected in 1968.  The Seven Sisters Oak was originally known as Doby’s Seven Sisters The name was changed and the oak re-registered as the Seven Sisters Oak.  A magnificent and worthy successor, the live oak’s girth measured 36′ 1″ at registration and was recorded as 38′ in 2002 on the “Society’s Top 100” list.

Seven Brothers Oak (Lastrapes Oak)

Washington, Louisiana

7 brothers oak-1

Seven Brothers (Lastrapes) Oak

The Seven Brothers Oak is located south of Washington, Louisiana, on Hwy. 182 about a mile out of downtown Washington – at the intersection of Hwy 182 and Par Road 5-25.  The large live oak is usually well-maintained in the open space fronting the Highway.

Referred to as the “Seven Sisters” by the Live Oak Society‘s founder, Dr. Edwin Lewis Stephens, in an article published in the Louisiana Conservation Review (April 1934), and not to be confused with the Live Oak Society’s current President, the Seven Sisters Oak, in St. Tammany parish—this old oak is best known today as the “Seven Brothers Oak” or the “Lastrapes” oak.  The Seven Brothers Oak is the seventh tree listed in Dr. Stephens’ 1934 article and is #9 on the Live Oak Society’s registry.

7 Brothers Oak_close-up

Seven Brothers Oak, study in black and white

The tree’s girth (circumference) was reported in two sections by Dr. Stephens in 1934 (27’3” and 26’4”), due to the configuration of the tree’s multi-trunk system.  One section of the system (the larger measurement) had a severed trunk.

The trunk section measurements on Nov. 11, 2007 were:
32’3”      Section nearest to the road (including the severed trunk)
28’11”    Section nearest to the fence

History:  There is more than one story about this particular tree (or group of trees)[1].  On our expedition, the person who currently maintains the tree and grounds of the Lastrapes homestead explained that it had been planted and named for the seven Lastrapes brothers who had left home to fight in the Civil War.  In another variation of the story, described in Ethelyn Orso’s Louisiana Live Oak Lore, the birth of his seventh son prompted Jean Henri Lastrapes to request that seven oaks be planted; the workers arrived late in the day with the seedlings and temporarily put them in one container (or hole).  The business of the days that followed in the cotton fields distracted the workers from ever completing the planting task—and thus the trees grew together, sharing the close proximity of their original planting site.

7 Brothers panorama_2

Seven Brothers Oak, view from the southeast side

In a recent email from Paul Lastrapes, he confirmed my suspicions that, “the version of the story that the tree was named for 7 brothers who went to the Civil War is not only incorrect, but it’s impossible. The tree was planted many decades before the war AND while it is true that some of Jean Henri’s descendants served, 7 from the same family? No. The genealogy tree back to Jean Henri does not support this version in any way. ”

Photo Notes: The skies were alternately sunny and cloudy, as the afternoon thunderheads passed by; so Bill had some wonderful light to photograph the various aspects of the old oak in black & white with his view camera, while Cyndi photographed the nearby cottage.  Although timeworn and no longer in use, the structure seemed content to remain as it was, in the company of its venerable friend.

Cyndi’s Nature Notes:  A frequent visitor to the live oak, a golden silk orb-weaver spider (Nephilia clavipes), also known as the “banana spider”, had created a web amongst the lower branches of the tree.

Banana Spider

Golden Silk Orb-Weaver –  C.L. Nelson 2007


[1]Orso, Ethelyn G; Louisiana Live Oak Lore (pg. 77-78); The Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana; Lafayette, LA 1992.