Quercus virginiana in splendid maturity
Oak Alley Plantation is famous for a long lane, lined with live oaks, which leads to a large mansion. The plantation is located near the Mississippi River, about three miles from Vacherie, Lousiana, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
The live oaks were planted early in the 1700s by an unknown French settler. In 1722, monks traveling through the area made note of the double row of vigorously-growing young oaks in their journals. The trees were 120 years old (or more) when the current plantation home was built in the late 1830s. The 28 trees of the alley were the architect's inspiration for the 28 columns of the house.
The alley is 80 feet wide and about 800 feet long. Each side has 14 trees. The planter of the oaks planned well for their ultimate size. He knew that he would never see them in their maturity; yet, he thought about what they could become and what their space requirements would be. The magnificence of his vision is fulfilled, three centuries later.
Live oak facts
Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) is nearly always wider than it is tall. Live oaks commonly reach a height of 40-60 feet with a spread of 1-1/2 times the height or more. Individual specimens may be 80 feet in height and 120 feet or more in spread. Live oaks often live 400 years, and individuals may live longer.
The tree is renown for its extremely dense, heavy wood. The acorns are relished by a wide range of wildlife; they are said to be the sweetest of all oak acorns. Native Americans gathered and stored live oak acorns to thicken their stew. They also pressed them and extracted an oil.
Like all live oaks, Quercus virginiana is an evergreen tree, holding its leaves throughout the winter months. In spring, old leaves drop off and new leaves are formed.
More tree history at Oak Alley Plantation
Another interesting bit of tree history took place at Oak Alley Plantation, In the 1840s, Antoine, a talented gardener who was a slave of the plantation, grafted the first paper-shell pecan trees. By 1865, 126 grafted papershell pecan trees were growing on Oak Alley Plantation. The variety of pecans which Antoine created became known as "Centennial".
Images of Oak Alley from Life magazine, 1952
Photographs of Oak Alley's trees and the mansion
Amazing images of big live oaks
Official site: Oak Alley Plantation
Photo credit: Wikimedia image by Rolf Müller, 2003.