Living Witness: Historic Trees of Texas
Share a photo of your favorite tree to win a copy of the book Living Witness: Historic Trees of Texas.
By Ralph Yznaga
The name Texas evokes dusty Spanish missions and cowboys resting beneath a sea of stars. Texas’ myriad legends are based in both reality and myth, and the state’s mystique is partly due to the great variety of people who have called this land home, and—just as significantly—to the nature of the land itself. One impressive attribute of this land is the bounty of imposing trees.
Hollywood may have contributed to the popular misconception that Texas is treeless, but even in the starkest landscapes, like the plains of West Texas, trees are often the only identifiable feature. Elsewhere across the state, tall elms and pines, rustling cottonwoods, majestic live oaks, and stately pecans dignify a landscape of lonely deserts, arid mountains, whispering marshes, long beaches, and dense forests.
Texas’ trees have always been respected for the comfort they provide. Native Americans used them as landmarks, meeting places, and protection from harsh weather. The Spanish, French, and Mexicans established settlements among them, using their wood to build missions and forts.
Later, their wide boughs supported the homes and marked the homesteads of Anglo settlers. During conflicts, settlers used trees as mustering places and scouting nests. In peacetime, churches and courts held services and convened sessions beneath them, and their limbs were often the site of frontier justice.
More than five hundred years after Europeans first arrived in the Americas, some of the trees that were then seedlings or saplings re-main among us as silent witnesses to, or participants in, history. Today, it seems remarkable that you can stand under the same tree where Sam Houston gathered his small army to journey to San Jacinto. For me, learning the stories of these great trees and the lives of the people connected to them has been an exciting journey of discovery. I hope you enjoy learning their stories as much as I have.
They are also the last living witnesses to Texas’ unique story.
From the October 2012 issue.