For centuries, the Sallier Oak has symbolized survival in southwest Louisiana

In Southwest Louisiana, the names Audrey, Rita, Laura, and Delta are notorious — the powerful Hurricanes that wrought devastation and erased livelihoods for so many.

But there’s one name associated with resilience in the face of Mother Nature’s fury: Sallier.

Pictured in December 2022, the Sallier Oak dates back to at least the 1650s.

The stately Sallier Oak, an enormous live oak tree named after one of Lake Charles’ earliest settlers, European Charles Sallier, has weathered some of history’s most powerful storms.

Estimated to be least 375 years old, it was under this tree that the colorful pioneer was said to have built his Winter home in the late 1700s, according to the Imperial Calcasieu Museum, which is located on the historic site.

Pictured in 2016, the full canopy of the Sallier Oak had recovered from damage after Hurricane Rita in 2005.

After a lightning strike split one of its largest branches 150 years ago, chains were wrapped around its trunk to help it heal. Upon closer inspection, the trunk of the tree has grown around the massive links over time.

In the 1800s, community members wrapped the trunk in chains to help it heal after a lightning strike.

Powerful storms, such as the Hurricane of 1918 and others, have left the tree battered and broken over the last century, but like the resurrection fern covering its sprawling branches, life continues to spring forth from the Sallier Oak.

In August 2020, catastrophe struck again when Laura became the most powerful hurricane in recorded history to make landfall in the state of Louisiana. The unthinkable happened six weeks later when Hurricane Delta made the same track through southwest Louisiana.

This pair of events permanently altered the Lake Area, leaving the landscape ragged and scarred. A backdrop of once-lush trees towering throughout the area is barely recognizable to lifelong residents.

An August 2020 Facebook post from the Imperial Calcasieu Museum, announcing the Sallier Oak had survived Hurricane Laura.

Somehow the Sallier Oak survived again. Thinned by Laura’s blistering 150 mile-per-hour winds, the branches have filled out in the two years since.

“It represents the ability for our community to weather disasters while continuing to grow with optimism,” according to the museum’s website.

Especially since these latest history-making events, it continues to be a point of pilgrimage for residents, tourists, and photographers across the state. The tree’s enduring lineage has even garnered the attention of Southern Living Magazine.

The Sallier Oak is a member of the Live Oak Society.

A member of the Live Oak Society of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation since 1967, the Sallier Oak is listed in the registry of more than four thousand mature oaks across the South. The group works to preserve and promote these trees.

“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.”

The Live Oak Society

On a recent visit to my hometown, I took my family to see the majestic Sallier Oak. My grandfather would take me here throughout my childhood, telling me stories about the founding of Lake Charles and the tree’s significance as a witness to history.

Pictured almost two decades apart, the late Olaf Shreve and grandson Lane Luckie stand in front of the Sallier Oak.

In order to ensure future generations will also be able make memories under the welcoming shade of Lake Charles’ eldest resident, a major fundraiser will be undertaken in 2023.

In an article published Friday, December 16 in the American Press, the area’s daily newspaper, the museum’s arborist said the oak’s survival will require trimming the main branches and adding supports. This project will come at a cost of at least $24,000, Ashley Royer told the American Press.

Hopefully the community will rally to preserve this local landmark and natural treasure.


The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of KLTV/KTRE-TV or Gray Television. They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2022 Lane Luckie

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