Sacred Trees - Gallery 6


El Arbol de El Tule, (Taxodium mucronatum)

Santa Maria del Tule, Oaxaca - Mexico.



This magnificent Montezuma Cypress is reputed to be over 1600 years old and is considered to be the largest tree (by volume) in the world. Its height is approximately 116 feet (35.4 m) with a trunk diameter of 46 feet (14m) and a trunk girth of 138 feet (42 m). It was generally assumed that the tree was originally three trees that grew together, but DNA tests determined that it is one single tree.

This tree has long been considered sacred by the Zapotecs and Mistecs. One myth tells that the tree was originally planted by Pecocha, a representative of Ehecatl = the Aztec god of wind and storms to benefit the people. An important Wish Tree, Medicine Tress and Tree of Life, the Tule has been the recipient of sacred offerings for centuries. In order to deflect these indigenous traditions, a Catholic church was built nearby.

The last several hundred years have not been kind to El Arbol de El Tule, whose original habitat was a swamp with abundant rain and high humidity. Now surrounded by the city of Santa Maria del Tule, its surroundings have been paved over with sidewealks, roads and building construction. This has compressed the roots and has limited the amount of water needed for the tree's survival. In addition, the swamp has long dried up, depriving the tree of itys original humid environment.

After a major study, the main highway was diverted and the surrounding gardens were extended. However, researchers believe that more needs to be done to insure the future well-being of this magnificant tree. Despite its many challenges, as of 2023, the Arbol de El Tule was still growing.


Top two photos by Nathaniel Altman, January 2023.

Local people in ceremonial dress assembled by the tree trunk.


Copyright © 2023 by Nathaniel Altman. All rights reserved

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