The Arbol de Tule, a True World Treasure

Arbol de Tule y Church
Arbol de Tule y Church (Photo credit: Alan Rockefeller)

El Árbol del Tule is a tree located in the church grounds in the town center of Santa María del Tule in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, approximately 9 km (6 mi) east of the city of Oaxaca on the road to Mitla. It is a Montezuma cypress, or ahuehuete. It has the stoutest trunk of any tree in the world. In 2001, it was placed on a UNESCO tentative list of World Heritage Sites. Wikipedia

Trees come in all shapes and sizes. From small bonsai trees that are bent and beautiful to towering redwoods that are wider than a car, each tree species is unique. The Arbol de Tule is a special tree, as it was placed on a list of world heritage sites. This is not because of any event that happened near the tree, but due to the tree's rare girth. While the circumfrence of the some redwoods can be from 80 to 90 feet, the Arbol de Tule dwarfs even that measurement, coming in at 119 feet around, over a third of a football field.

El Árbol del Tule by ovedc 12
El Árbol del Tule by ovedc 12 (Photo credit: Ovedc)

The massive size of the Arbol de Tule is its draw. The circumference of the tree is not the only huge measurement. The diameter is over 38 feet, while it has been measured at 116 feet high. The height is interesting as it makes the tree farther around at the base than it is tall. While these measurements may be impressive in print, nothing compares to seeing the tree itself. When viewed from afar, it looks like just a mass of branches, wood and leaves. The details of the tree become clearer upon closer inspection. The trunk is seen to be not one massive piece, but several seperate trunk growths, each starting in the same place and taking a different direction, creating the illusion of several trunks, though DNA tests show that they are all one tree. The twists and turns of the base giveway to a mass of branches towards the top, dense with leaves and beautiful.

Arbol del Tule
Arbol del Tule (Photo credit: Alex Martinez)

The age of the Arbol de Tule has been a topic of debate. Scientists who have studied the tree say it is anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 years old, while others claim it is over 6,000 years old. More recent estimates pin the age at somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 years old. It is no wonder that this tree has grown so massive, as it has had over a millenium to do so.

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