- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Tum Tum, Brother Joseph, God’s Wonder, and Shady Eden are among the newest members of a national registry of grand, gnarly live oaks.

Tum Tum, in Lafayette and named for a cat, is 16 feet around: a centenarian by Live Oak Society rules. The other three are in the society’s junior league at, respectively, 13, 10 and the minimum 8 feet in circumference.

Many trees have been named for pets, said Coleen Perilloux Landry, the chairman and sole human member of the society created by the Louisiana Garden Club Federation Inc. to draw attention to and help preserve the old trees. “One tree was named for a squirrel who used to live in the tree,” she said, though she couldn’t remember the name.

Landry said about 300 live oaks, which got that monicker because they’re green year-round, were registered this year and another 13 were saved from being cut to make way for a highway in Jeanerette.

She estimates she’s registered more than 4,000 of the society’s 7,500 trees since taking office in 2001. Many are in Louisiana but there are substantial numbers in Florida, the Carolinas and Mississippi, with smaller numbers in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Ohio. Kentucky has one. Registration is free.

Most names are given by the tree’s owner. Sometimes they’re just the name of the property and a number. That’s the case now, but not always, for nearly 70 on Daniel Island, South Carolina.

A civic group there is registering and auctioning naming rights to “hundreds of nice-sized oaks,” Landry said. Names already registered include The Resurrection Oak, The Ittiwan Oak and Guardian Angel Oak.

Most names have stories.

The eight in Cory Cochran’s yard in the southwest Louisiana city of Westlake are dedicated to his late wife, who never got to see them. Seven bear one letter each of her first name, Kristen. The biggest, 17 feet around, is named 337, for their wedding.

“We got married on March 3rd, 2007, and got married at 3:37,” Cochran said in a phone interview. Kristen Konieczny Cochran died in April 2013, of cancer.

“She beat it once,” Cochran said. “It came back and she couldn’t beat it. She was only 37.”

Live oaks can live hundreds of years. Their thick branches often dip to earth, then rise again. The Seven Sisters Oak in Mandeville, at 38 feet around the society’s president, has branches that reach outward for double its height.

A core boring showed that tree is 1,200 years old, Landry said. It’s also the Southern live oak species champion in the National Register of Big Trees. It’s still much smaller than California’s redwoods and giant sequoias, or even the baldcypress champions in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Seven Sisters’s trunk spreads into seven main branches; it was first named by one of seven sisters.

Sometimes a name needs no explanation, like Shady Eden in Sebastian, Florida. The Hillcrest Oak is on Hillcrest Street in Waveland, Mississippi, and New Cut Oak is on New Cut Road on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina.

The names Ruby Clapsaddle of New Iberia gave her oaks speak of devotion, from God’s Patience, the smallest, through God’s Love, God’s Wonder, God’s Pleasure and God’s Treasure to the biggest, God’s Glory.

Brother Joseph is among eight live oaks at a Catholic school in Franklin. Six were named for its first teachers, two for priests and the ninth for a caretaker, said Kim Adams, principal at Hanson Memorial High School.

Nanny’s Oak, in Marshallberg, North Carolina, is named for Lucille Nelson Lewis - one of at least six generations of her family to play in and under the tree, according to the society. It’s 17 feet, 9 inches around.

Adair and David Faust of Cheneyville named Laurence for their late son. “There’s a treehouse in the tree. All the kids played there and we hope they’ll keep doing that,” Adair Faust said.

Four others are named for relatives. Uncle Remus - the fictional narrator of Joel Chandler Harris’ retellings of African-American folktales - got its name by way of Brer Fox, for two families of foxes that denned and raised kits in its roots.

The Fausts followed a French tree-naming tradition for Peace and Prosperity, which stand by their bedroom. Adair Faust said, “We didn’t want to name them for people, looking right in the windows.”

___

Online:

https://www.lgcfinc.org/live-oak-society.html

https://www.americanforests.org/our-programs/bigtree/

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