While in Cajun Country of southwestern Louisiana, we came across what is undoubtedly the most exclusive society in existence.
First: To be included in this organization, a member must be 100 years or older. (This requirement should be enough to make the society exclusive, especially when you realize that the hundred-year-old members are, by far, the youngest members.)
Second: Each member must have an "attorney" or sponsor to act as its guardian.
Third: At one time the annual dues for membership were 25 acorns.
Fourth: Each member must be a live oak tree.
Yes, this was the Live Oak Society.
The Live Oak Society was founded in 1934 by Dr. Edwin Lewis Stephens, who wrote an article in the Louisiana Conservation Review titled, "I Saw in Louisiana a Live Oak Growing," after a poem by Walt Whitman.
At the time, he wrote:
“Why do we not form a Louisiana Live Oak Association? Let the membership be composed of the trees themselves... whose age is not less than a hundred years.... I, at present, number among my personal acquaintance forty-three such live oaks in Louisiana eligible for charter member-ship."
Dr. Stephens presented a constitution and by-laws in which he stated that “…the largest live oak in the society shall be declared president." The first President was the Lock Breaux Oak in St. Charles Parish (circumference was 35 feet).
Two of the charter oaks that we have “met” are the St. John Cathedral Oak in Lafayette, currently the second vice president of the Society (see photo in the blog entry 3/21/11) and the Gebert Oak in New Iberia (blog entry 3/3/12).
In the Live Oak Society, there is only one human member, an honorary chairman, who registers and records the trees in the Society.
The Live Oak Society began with 45 members chosen by Stephens and now boasts 6898 members in 14 states and is under the auspices of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation, Inc.
We visited a group of live oaks in the Parc des Ponts de Pont in Breaux Bridge, LA, but we’re not sure if any are members of the Society. (To join, an oak must have a girth [waistline] of eight feet or greater.)
Finally, a tree can be expelled from the Society for such offenses as whitewashing and bearing advertising. (A group of trees was once "tried" by Judge Horace White of Alexandria for whitewashing, but were not expelled on the grounds that the trees did not apply the whitewash themselves.)
We could not determine if any of the Breaux Bridge were already members of the Society, but we learned that they could register by contacting:
PRESIDENT of the Live Oak Society
Seven Sisters Oak, #200 on the registry
(Information obtained from lafayettetravel.com and louisianagardenclubs.org