The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Tree of Tule

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

TREE OF TULE. Among the big trees of the world, thte best known are the Sequoias, or Giant Redwoods of California, which reach a diameter of 36 feet and a height of 279 feet. Not so widely known, but equally tall, are the Eucalyptus trees of southeastern Australia. The Banyan trees of India cover more space, but these are more like a grove than a single tree. The Big Tree of Tule may fairly claim to be the largest tree in the world. Tule is about 360 miles south of the City of Mexico and just a few miles south of Oaxaca, on the stage road between Oaxaca and the Ruins of Mitla. The tree is about 50 feet in diameter — Campbell's guide book gives the circumference as 154 feet and two inches at six feet from the ground — and the height is a little more than three times the diameter of the trunk, so that in general appearance it resembles a gigantic willow. A common name for the tree is The Montezuma Cypress. The scientific name is Taxodium mucronatum; consequently, it is closely related to the Swamp Cypress, or Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) of the southern United States. The Montezuma Cypress was once abundant in Mexico and many of the trees were very large, but, even in the time of Cortez, the Big Tree of Tule was famous as the largest of all living things. Humboldt carved on the trunk an inscription which is now so overgrown that only the beginning and end of the lines can be read. The government — at least until 1912 — recognized the tree as a wonder and kept guards to preserve it against the ravages of tourists. Estimating the age by the annual growth rings and assuming that the grpwth rings of the big tree are of about the same width as in other large trees of the same species, the Big Tree of Tale must be at least 5,000 years old. The famous Tree of the Sorrowful Night — Arbol del Noche Triste — in the City of Mexico, the tree under which Cortez rested after his worst defeat at the hands of the Aztecs, belongs to the same species.