In a dramatic event over the weekend, one of South Louisiana's most cherished natural landmarks, the iconic cypress tree at Lake Martin, was engulfed in flames following a lightning strike.

The cypress tree, a staple image in the backdrop of local family photos and numerous publications, caught fire during a severe lightning storm. The images were so unreal that some thought they may have been AI, but the post by Facebook user Mike Guillory, who first reported the incident, was tragically real.

Guillory's Facebook post included not only pictures but also videos of the tree burning amid the downpour, capturing a scene so dramatic it bordered on the unbelievable. This tree, a symbol of Lake Martin in St. Martin Parish, has been a muse for thousands of photographs over the years—including this author during his continuing ed. Photography classes at UL.

Adding to the authenticity of the event, Emilie Guillory shared a screengrab indicating the presence of lightning in the area at the time, supporting the theory of a lightning-induced fire.

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Despite the damage, the tree remarkably remains standing, albeit with a new, unique feature. A comment shared by Grayson Carroll on KATC Chief Meteorologist Rob Perillo’s Facebook page highlighted a hole burned directly through the tree, a feature that was not present before.

Ben Pierce, an Acadiana photographer and an advocate for Louisiana's swamps through his non-profit Louisiana Swamp Base and McGee’s Swamp Tours, expressed his sorrow over the incident. He has a personal connection with the tree, having used it as the focus of his early swamp photography and the cover of his book, “Reflections of Lake Martin.” Pierce hopes that the tree, despite its current state, has not been completely lost.

Pierce later shared that, although the tree is heavily charred, it still stands. The resilience of cypress trees, known to survive even when hollowed out or broken, gives hope that this landmark will continue to grace the landscape of Lake Martin.

Adding to the voices of those affected by this event, Paul Kieu, a renowned professional photographer from the Lafayette area, shared his sentiments regarding the iconic cypress tree at Lake Martin. Having numerous published photos of the area, Kieu regards the tree as more than just a natural landmark. "It's one of the most important and recognizable landmarks in Acadiana," he stated, emphasizing its significance as a living emblem of the diverse ecosystems in South Louisiana.

The tree, according to Kieu, has been a welcoming sight for thousands of tourists and locals each year, contributing to the unique charm and natural beauty of Lake Martin. Expressing hope for its survival, he reflected on the tree's importance in the community, symbolizing not just a place, but a living connection to the region's rich environmental heritage.

Next time you're out at Lake Martin, be sure to check out the famous cypress tree as it still stands strong as a symbol of our resilience and how we respond to adversity here in south Louisiana.

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Gallery Credit: Scott Clow

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