Former champion pecan tree fell in Hurricane Laura

Updated: Oct. 5, 2020 at 11:40 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Some of Louisiana’s native trees that are over a hundred years old fell in Hurricane Laura.

One of them was a pecan tree in Beauregard Parish that was close to 100 feet tall and was an award-winner.

Drivers can spot the tree at the Smith’s home in Merryville in the driveway. It was so large in size, with a circumference of 15 feet, that it was named the state champion tree ten years ago.

The Smith's pecan tree in Merryville before Hurricane Laura.
The Smith's pecan tree in Merryville before Hurricane Laura.(Megan Smith)

“When people would come by, [they would say] “just look for the really huge tree in the driveway,” that’s how you know when you’re here,” Megan Smith said.

“Yeah it was like a welcoming piece, you know," her husband Stevie Smith agreed.

LSU AgCenter’s Keith Hawkins explained what it takes to be a champion tree.

“Champion tree is the biggest of its species," Hawkins said. "There’s three measurements: the circumference, the total height and the average of the crown spread and those numbers go into a formula to come up with a numeric score.”

The Smiths lost the pecan tree to the storm but Megan said she hopes the memory lingers on and recalled the story of the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

“We enjoyed her shade, we enjoyed her pecans and it’s just an attachment you get to living off the land as farmers and cattlemen," Megan said. "It’s kind of a comforting thing cause at the end of that story, you ended up with a stump and you enjoyed the memories that were left of it.”

Part of the tree is still alive. Out of the stump are sprouts that Hawkins plans to examine, while the Smiths plan to salvage the lumber and make special items.

“Well they’re just there, it’s part of the tree, it’s still alive,” Hawkins said. "The sprouts are still have contact through the stem and the roots and are making it somehow.”

“When the time comes and we move on in this world, I just hope Keith and we can have some luck,” Stevie said. “That way grandbabies can say “hey, there’s a pedigree here." [The tree] has seen a lot so to speak. It’s been through a lot and several storms and we’re gonna get through all of that.”

The Smiths said it took about three and a half days to clean up debris from that tree. The family has another state champion tree, a black walnut tree, that survived the storm.

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