"The Monarch of the Swamp" continues to amaze

The "Monarch of the Swamp" in Jean Lafitte National Park
The "Monarch of the Swamp" in Jean Lafitte National Park

A living thing is hundreds of years older than the state of Louisiana.

It stood tall during the Renaissance of the 15th century, and was even growing when Joan of Arc was born.

It's a cypress tree called the "Monarch of the Swamp" and it holds a place of honor in Jean Lafitte National Park.

The park is a snapshot of nature's bounty in Louisiana, and it draws crowds eager to see the modern-day superstar.

"I would estimate it to be 600 years old," said Tom Doyle of the National Wetlands Research Center.

The tree was standing before America was even a nation.  Louisiana leaders honor it for being alive 200 years ago when Louisiana became a state.

Dendroecologist Tom Doyle used a drill bite to take out a chunk of the old cypress to study its rings for age.  He says it also provides a look into the history of climate in Louisiana over the last 600 years.

The tree's six centuries make Frank Ehret's 96 years seem like the blink of an eye, but as one of the founders of Jean Lafitte National Park he is ecstatic. He worked in the 70's to preserve the wetlands and trees like this.

"We put a plaque on this one because it would be accessible to folks like you. Some of the trees you really have to tromp through the swamp to get to.  That's part of the reason they still stand is because they're remote," said Harvey Stern of the Bicentennial Cypress Legacy.

Most of the older trees in the park are about 100 to 200 years old, survivors of the logging in the mid-1800's. The monarch survived, possibly because of its flaws.

"They were hollow at the time the lumbering began 250 years ago, and when lumber men saw the hollow trees, several hundreds years old, they said 'we can do better than that! Let's cut down the younger ones that aren't hollow yet.'" said Stern.

Doyle said the tree might live another thousand years.

The state believes there are cypress trees more than a thousand years old around Louisiana.

If you spot a cypress that's 15, 20 or even 25 feet wide, officials are asking that you contact them.  Just send an email to this address: lapurchasecypresslegacy@gmail.com