Heart of Louisiana: Live oak arboretum

Updated: May. 14, 2019 at 8:33 PM CDT
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CHURCH POINT, La. (WVUE) - All across Louisiana, you can find centuries-old live oak trees still standing, but one Church Point farmer is doing his part to ensure they will continue to thrive for even more centuries to come.

Before Bob Thibodaux’s land was covered with with trees, it was a farm with some of the larges crops and highest yeilds that he had ever seen. So Thibodaux asked the farmer the secret to his success.

“He said, ‘never put nothing on the line unless he’s going to make it better,'" Thibodaux recalled.

Now, Thibodaux owns the land and has turned it into an arboretum of live oak trees.

“They’re just an awesome tree. They can live in Louisiana, they can live 2000 years,” Thibodaux said. “After a hurricane, you see a lot of human misery, destruction. But you go to where these lab books are, and you can see that they stood the storm, and you could see playlists, see where they slow down, winds.”

His trees are the descendants of some of the biggest and oldest live oak trees in the United States. And many of those grand old trees are in Louisiana, like the Seven Sisters Oak in Mandeville. It’s more than 1,000 years old and the largest live oak tree known in the country. And then, there’s the massive Cathedral Oak in Lafayette.

“We’re gathering acorns for net and we see a superior quality trees,” Thibodaux said.

Another favorite “parent tree" is the Jim Bowie in downtown Opelousas.

“This tree had to have superior genetics, because he grew in such a harsh environment and survived,” Thibodaux said. “So I picked up acorns from it. And I propagate them, and I’ll find the trees to be better than most.”

Thibodaux runs a tree preservation service, but he also tried to donate 25,000 live oak seedlings a year to various conservation groups across the South. He said he believes in sharing what he considers a magnificent tree. It’s a lesson he learned from his great-grandmother.

“And when you come to the pearly gates, the eternal reward will be a bird’s eye view of all the trees that he left on God’s green earth," Thibodaux said. “I like to think like my great-grandmother, that I’m leaving the world better, that I’m doing things that future generations.”

And that’s clearly something Bob Thibodaux would enjoy, when he’s no longer planting live oak trees.

For more information, visit www.bobstree.com

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