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Editor's Picks

The oak tree in Skjomendalen © Gerhard Sørensen-Fuglem and Cecilia Piccirilli Bjerkeset
An oak grows north of the Arctic Circle in Norway
Website Editor | Aug 14, 2023
Unusual symptoms linked to phytoplasma infection in Quercus humboldtiii, Colombia © Eric Boa
Symptoms linked to phytoplasma infection found in Quercus...
Website Editor | Aug 06, 2023
Different names are being used for one species.
Website Editor | Jun 20, 2023

Plant Focus

A small but mature Alabama sandstone oak producing acorns © Patrick Thompson
A Critically Endangered dwarf oak 

William Guion's Latest Book

William Guion is no stranger to the IOS. His images first appeared in our publications in the 2003 Journal, International Oaks No. 14, in an article co-authored with Guy Sternberg, featuring photos of Quercus virginiana: A Gallery of Southern Live Oaks. Six years later he wrote in International Oaks about the founding members of the Live Oak Society. He has been featured in our series on Oak Artists and his 2019 book Quercus Louisiana – The Splendid Live Oaks of Louisiana was reviewed by Shaun Haddock. William has specialized in photographing oaks; his first book, Heartwood Meditations on Southern Oaks (1998), was followed by a companion volume focusing on the oaks of California: Across Golden Hills Meditations on California Oaks (2013). His blog 100 Oaks chronicles his search to document the one hundred oldest and notable live oak trees in Louisiana. In his newest book, Return to Heartwood – A Search for the Heart of Live Oak Country, William again takes up camera and pen to document the stories and portraits of Louisiana’s oldest live oak trees, before they are lost and forgotten.

Return to Heartwood

Over four decades, he came to know the old oaks as sentient beings who are an essential part of the history, culture, and ecology of the Southern U.S. landscape. They are vital to what makes Louisiana visually distinct and culturally rich. But he also found that the oldest oaks are disappearing faster than anyone realizes, due to climate change, more powerful storms, depleted soil, and unchecked development.

Return to Heartwood is a retrospective of Guion’s journey through the heart of live oak country in search of Louisiana’s oldest live oaks. It is part autobiography, part history, and part appeal to preserve the remaining old oaks before they and their stories are lost forever. His photographs and stories take you deep into moss-draped corridors of ancient oak alleys, through fog-shrouded oak groves, and into dazzling mornings and ghostly twilights to commune with these elder trees.

Sample page Ghosts
A sample page spread from Return to Heartwood: "Ghosts" (click on the image to download a PDF file of the page)

William has photographed the landscape and oak trees of Louisiana for more than forty years. His black-and-white and hand-colored photographs of the oaks sensitively portray the essence of the oak’s character. He describes his images as “tree portraits,” each one revealing the evasive and individual personality of each tree, alley, or grove. Through his haunting “oak portraits” and personal essays, you are transported deep into the heart of Louisiana’s misty and mysterious bayou country.

In 2006, moved by the loss of many of Louisiana’s old oaks from hurricanes, he focused his efforts on locating and documenting the state’s historic oaks (many of them growing before European settlement of Louisiana) before they and the human stories connected with them are lost forever. In 2016, based on this work, he received a major grant from the Lafourche Parish Office of Tourism to create the Bayou Lafourche Historic Live Oak Tour. 

Guion’s photographs are widely collected and are contained in a variety of corporate and private collections across the U.S. as well as the permanent collections of the Louisiana Folklife Museum and the Louisiana State Museum in Baton Rouge, and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Sample page Slow Dance
A sample page spread from Return to Heartwood: "Slow Dance" (click on the image to download a PDF file of the page)

Return to Heartwood is a beautiful hard-cover book, 10 in. by 8 in. in size, 120 pages in length, with 57 black-and-white photographs paired with 55 essays. Copies are available through Louisiana’s independent book stores and through the book’s website – www.returntoheartwood.com. There are plans to make an e-book version of the book available on the website, which would make it more accessible to international readers.