The Trees

It began with a vision...

“In the beginning…” there were the trees!

Oak Alley's allee' has been inspiring residents and visitors for centuries. Over 300 years old, who planted them remains one of the plantation's greatest mysteries…… Once used as an navigational tool for river captains on the Mississippi River, this iconic landscape is identified by the quarter mile alley of 28 Virginia live oaks planted in two equal rows spaced 80' apart leading to the river.

The live oak, noted for its size, beauty and hardiness, derives its name from the fact that it is evergreen, shedding its old leaves only as new ones emerge. Indigenous to the southern coastal regions of the United States, it thrives with little or no care. It has long been considered one of the most beautiful trees in America, a symbol of elegance of the Old South, and is much admired for its thick, strong trunks and long limbs that stretch farther sideways than upward. Live Oaks produce acorns that are oval-shaped, about an inch in length, and mature in one growing season – often in great abundance. The thick, oval-shaped, evergreen leaves of the Live Oak are shiny and dark green on top and lighter green underneath. The thin bark of young Live Oak trees is dark to light gray in color, becoming thicker and darker as the tree matures. With mature heights reaching up to 75 feet and canopy spreads up to 100 feet it is a broad, massive tree that is often wider than it is tall at maturity. While Spanish moss is often found draped over the branches of mature live oaks, Oak Alley’s trees do not and that, too, remains a mystery.

Official Names for the Induction of the
28 Great Oaks of Oak Alley Plantation into the Live Oak Society

UPRIVER-facing the river, from the house, to the left

1. Celina Pilie Roman (1816-1866). Married to Jacques Telesphore Roman,first resident owner of Oak Alley Plantation. Daughter to New Orleans City Surveyor, Gilbert Joseph Pilie, distinguished member of Creole Society and credited with the design and construction of numerous historic buildings, both in the city and throughout the River Region.
Measurements: girth: 22'9", height: 67'4", crown spread: 112.5'.

2. Louise Roman (1835-1895). Daughter of Jacques Telesphore and Celina Pilie Roman. Entered the Discalced Carmelite Order at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1867. In 1877, as Mother Theresa of Jesus, founded a New Orleans Carmelite Convent on Barracks and Rampart Streets.
Measurements: girth: 18', height: 60'6", crown spread: 124.5'.

3. Zeb Mayhew, Jr. (1943- ). Grandnephew of Josephine Armstrong Stewart & grandson of Julia Armstrong Mayhew Kaufmann. Executive Director of Oak Alley Foundation (1976 to present).
Measurements: girth: 25'2", height: 73', crown spread: 136.5'.

4. Zeb Mayhew, Sr. (1915-1994). Nephew of Josephine Armstrong Stewart & son of Julia Armstrong Mayhew Kaufmann. Charter Chairman, Board of Trustees, Oak Alley Foundation ( 1966-1986) then named Member Emeritus.
Measurements: girth: 22'6", height: 74', crown spread: 136.5'.

5. Jonathan Mayhew (1944- ). Grandnephew of Josephine Armstrong Stewart & grandson of Julia Armstrong Mayhew Kaufman. Member, Board of Trustees, Oak Alley Foundation (1986- Present), serving as Chairman (1991- 2002).
Measurements: girth: 16'3", height: 70'5", crown spread: 126'.

6. Julie Mayhew (1916-1969). Niece of Josephine Armstrong Stewart & daughter of Julia Armstrong Mayhew Kaufmann. Former Fashion Editor, Times-Picayune, New Orleans.
Measurements: girth: 23', height: 67', crown spread: 139.5'.

7. Jacqueline Mayhew Ireland (1923-1989). Niece of Josephine Stewart & daughter of Julia Armstrong Mayhew Kaufmann. Member, Board of Trustees, Oak Alley Foundation (1986-1989). Measurements: girth: 19'10", height: 69'5", crown spread: 121.5'.

8. Julia Armstrong Mayhew Kaufmann (1889-1992). Beloved sister and confidant of Josephine Armstrong Stewart. Charter member, Board of Trustees, Oak Alley Foundation ( 1966-1986) then named Member Emeritus. Mother of Zeb Mayhew Sr. and Grandmother of Zeb Mayhew Jr. and Jonathan Mayhew.
Measurements: girth: 17'6", height: 69', crown spread: 105'.

9. Josephine Armstrong Stewart (1879-1972), last resident owner of Oak Alley from 1925 until her death in 1972, together with her husband, Andrew Stewart, managed the adaptive restoration of Oak Alley Plantation. In 1966, Josephine created Oak Alley Foundation, a 50lc3 charitable, literary, educational trust to ensure the preservation of her beloved plantation.
Measurements: girth: 29'11", height: 81', crown spread: 156'.

10. Julia Hardin Kuntz (1912-2002). Daughter of Jefferson Davis Hardin, Jr. and childhood resident of Oak Alley from 1917-1924. Measurements: girth: 16'7", height: 63’5”, crown spread: 105'.

11. Hazel Hardin Kolb ( 191 0-1988), Daughter of Jefferson Davis Hardin Jr. and childhood resident of Oak Alley from 1917-1924. Measurements: girth: 21'5", height: 78', crown spread: 124.5'.

12. Virginia Hardin Derby (1915-2008). Daughter of Jefferson Davis Hardin Jr. and childhood resident of Oak Alley from 1917-1924.
Measurements: girth: 18'6", height: 88'5", crown spread: 132'.

13. Josie Sobral Goette (1868-1907) Daughter of Antoine Sobral, resident owner of Oak Alley from 1881-1905. Skillfully assisted her father in the management of Oak Alley and diverse business matters. Married to Sidonius Goette, a prominent Donaldsonville businessman.
Measurements: girth: 16'4", height: 65', crown spread: 115.5'.

14. Josephine Roman Aime (1797-1856). Only sister of Jacques Telesphore Roman to survive to adulthood. Married Francois Gabriel "Valcour"Aime. It was to please his wife that Valcour sold her brother, Jacques, Oak Alley Plantation on condition that Jacques would in turn sell his interest in the Roman family estate to Valcour so that Valcour might assemble ownership of the estate which he later named "Le Petit Versailles."
Measurements: girth: 20'10", height: 64', crown spread: 115.5'.

Official Names for the Induction of the
28 Great Oaks of Oak Alley Plantation into the Live Oak Society

DOWNRIVER-facing the river, from the house, to the right

1. Jacques Telesphore Roman (1800 - 1848). Builder and first owner of Oak Alley Plantation. Youngest son of a distinguished Creole family and prominent figure in the River Region sugar industry. Brother of twice elected Louisiana governor, Andre Bienvenu Roman.
Measurements: girth: 26'1 ", height: 78', crown spread: 125'.

2. Octavie Roman Buchanan (1837-1867). Daughter of Jacques and Celina Roman. Married to Philip Buchanan, son of Alexander Buchanan, Louisiana Supreme Court Justice and close friend of Governor A.B. Roman.
Measurements: girth: 15'3", height: 65', crown spread: 124.5'.

3. Henri Roman (1839-1905). Only son of Jacques and Celina Roman to survive to adulthood. Married to his 2nd cousin, Therese Bouligny, granddaughter of Governor A.B. Roman.
Measurements: girth: 20'9", height: 75', crown spread: 129'.

4. J. Harry Roman, III (1935- ). Great great grandson of Jacques Telesphore Roman. Prominent New Orleans businessman. Long time supporter and valuable source of Oak Alley history.
Measurements: girth: 19'4", height: 78', crown spread: 94.5'.

5. James Buchanan Blitch (1923-1998). Direct descendant of Jacques Telesphore Roman through Jacques' daughter, Octavie Roman Buchanan. Was a prominent New Orleans/French Quarter architect.
Measurements: girth: 20'1", height: 71', crown spread: 126'.

6. Andrew Stewart (1872-1946), together with his wife, Josephine Armstrong Stewart, was the driving force behind the restoration of Oak Alley Plantation (1925-1926), accomplishing one of the finest examples of adaptive restoration in the River Region, thus inspiring other restorations throughout the region. Measurements: girth: 27'7", height: 72', crown spread: 145.5'.

7. Robert L. Ireland (1920-2002). Married Jacqueline Mayhew, niece of Josephine Stewart and daughter of Julia Mayhew Kaufmann. Member, Board of Trustees, Oak Alley Foundation (1986-2002), serving as Chairman (1986-1991).
Measurements: girth: 17', height: 69'5", crown spread: 127.5'.

8. Cornelia Ireland (1923-1997). Josephine Stewart's Godchild, dear friend, frequent house guest and longtime supporter of Oak Alley Foundation.
Measurements: girth: 22', height: 74', crown spread: 148.5'.

9. Major Tom Armstrong (1892-1986) Brother of Josephine Armstrong Stewart. He spear headed the process of creating the nonprofit trust, Oak Alley Foundation. He served as a Charter Member, Board of Trustees (1966 - 1986) and was instrumental in structuring the gifting of the Foundation in Josephine's will.
Measurements: girth: 19'5", height: 74', crown spread: 121.5'.

10. Jefferson Davis Hardin, Jr. (1880 - 1961 ). Resident owner of Oak Alley Plantation from 1917-1924. He reversed the nemesis of "demolition by neglect" stabilizing the roof the crumbing Big House and ministered to the grounds & gardens, devoting special attention to the oaks in the alley.
Measurements: girth: 21'8", height: 72', crown spread: 138'.

11. Eteinne 0. Hotard (1862-1945) /J.D. Pittman (dates unknown). Owners of Oak Alley from 1905 to 1911. Purchased Oak Alley from Antoine Sobral as a business partnership.
Measurements: girth: 24'4", height: 76', crown spread: 150'.

12. Gabriel Aime (1826-1854). Beloved son of Francois Gabriel "Valcour" Aime and Josephine Roman Aime. Favorite nephew of Jacques Telesphore Roman.
Measurements: girth: 16'9" height: 66', crown spread: 98'.

13. Antoine Sobral (1844-1918). Resident owner of Oak Alley Plantation from 1881 to 1905. Restored Oak Alley to pre-Civil War glory. Between Sobral and his capable daughter, Josie, Oak Alley enjoyed a long and fruitful era of prosperity.
Measurements: girth: 20'2", height: 84', crown spread: 126'.

14. Valcour Aime (1797-1867). Brother-in- law of Jacques Telesphore Roman. Previous owner of Oak Alley property prior to selling to Jacques in 1836. Nationally acclaimed for his magnificent efforts on behalf of the sugar industry, philanthropist, author, noted land developer and founder of Jefferson College in Convent, Louisiana, now known as Manresa Retreat House.
Measurements: girth: 27'4", height: 82', crown spread: 132'.

 

On June 28, 1995, Oak Alley Plantation’s allee of oaks were inducted into the Live Oak Society of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation 
To become a member, a live oak must have a girth (waistline) of eight feet or greater.  Girths over 16 feet are classified as centenarians. You might be interested to know that all of the oak trees in the alley at Oak Alley Plantation exceed this by several feet, the largest measuring 26.5’.
 
The Live Oak Society was founded in 1934 by Dr. Edwin Lewis Stephens, the first president of Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now the University of Louisiana in Lafayette).  Its members are made up of only live oak trees.  The Society promotes the culture, distribution, preservation and appreciation of the live oak tree.  It began with 43 members chosen by Dr. Stephens and now boasts 6356 members in 14 states and is under the auspices of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation, Inc.  
 

BASIC CARE OF A LIVE OAK

It’s no coincidence that the live oak symbolizes strength, stability, and steadfastness; for we cannot imagine what growing up in Louisiana would have been like without spending a good deal of time among the limbs of a majestic live oak tree.
 
 
Live Oak Trees, Scientific Name:  Quercus virginiana
Grows best in zones 7-10
The best time to plant oaks will depend on which hardiness zone you live in. A hardiness zone is a guideline on how temperate the climate is, and most trees and plants can live in several zones. For instance, zones 7 - 9 can plant oaks in late April or early May.  Use your hardiness zone as a starting point for deciding when to plant oaks, but use your own judgment, too. If there is a late frost in the forecast, consider planting a week later, or you may opt to install a plan to insulate young seedlings from the cold. 
 
Young oaks will sprout and grow in shade for their first year, but must have full sun after that. They can survive in dry soils, but prefer moist and well-drained soils. Oaks will grow to have deep and spreading roots; they need a deep soil base and lots of room. Don't plant an oak close to a house or garage.  It requires very little watering while it is young. After it is 4 to 5 feet tall, watering can be forgotten, and no more care is required.  The life span of the live oak tree is 300-600 years. It is also an evergreen tree.
 
Take Home a Living Part of Oak Alley Plantation’s History
Guests who visit Oak Alley Plantation have the opportunity to take home a piece of Oak Alley’s history with them by purchasing a live oak sapling.  
 
These carefully selected and germinated seedlings of Oak Alley’s impressive allee of oaks are ready for planting and will do well anywhere south of the Mason Dixon Line.  The stateliness of their lineage speaks for itself, and the 28 live oak trees that make up our alley are not only world famous for their grandeur, but they are also distinguished members of the exclusive Live Oak Society.