Bogalusa has a new state champion, but isn’t the one that was expected.
LSU AgCenter investigator Brian Chandler came to Bogalusa to measure what was suspected to be a state champion cherry laurel tree. But when he approached the leaning tree in front of the Bogue Lusa Creek Café, he immediately expressed suspicions. Then he picked a leaf, crushed it and took a whiff.
“This is not a cherry laurel tree,” Chandler said. “It’s a redbay.
“But it’s still going to be a champion.”
Upon further investigation he found a small, pea-sized fruit amongst the leaves. That further confirmed his determination.
“This is the tree that I was taught produces the bay leaves we cook with,” Chandler said as he unpacked various measuring devices. “The leaves were used by Indians to treat a variety of complaints, but especially as a way to induce vomiting.”
On his way to Bogalusa the investigator had stopped in Franklinton to pick up Scotty May, assistant extension agent for Washington Parish, and the two set about measuring the circumference, height and spread of the tree.
It was 33 feet tall, 5-foot-1 in circumference and had a spread of 35 feet. That gave it a rating of 102.
When Chandler checked a computer printout of champion tree sizes, the only bay tree on the list was a swampbay that had a rating of 107. He said he would have to do some more investigating.
If the redbay and swampbay were determined to be the same species, the Cassidy Park specimen would, in fact, enter the record books.
“If you get a rating within 10 points, they are co-champions,” Chandler said.
But if a redbay was on the master list, the one in Bogalusa would have to measure up.
On Monday, Chandler had good news.
“We have determined the tree to be a redbay, Persea borbonia, not a swampbay, Persea palustris, because it does not have fuzz on the underside of the leaves,” he said. “There is not a champion redbay now.
“Although not very tall at 33 feet, this is the largest diameter redbay I have seen in my 32 years as extension forester here in the Florida Parishes. The 19.4 inches in diameter is equal to 5 feet, 1 inch in circumference measured at 4.5 feet. It is not a real common tree. The tree in Cassidy Park will be certified in January 2014 as the state champion redbay.”
He said the redbay is the third state champion tree in Washington Parish, and all are located on the eastern side of the parish. The others are a slash pine “out in the woods” at 22361 Louisiana Highway 436 and a bitter pecan in the front yard at 58134 Louisiana Highway 439.
Terry “Foots” Quinn, who nominated what he said he’d been told by an expert was a contender cherry laurel tree, was amused by the turn of events. Ultimately, he was pleased that he had some part in getting Bogalusa, again, into the record books for something green, growing and positive, he said.