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Posted by on Jan 9, 2013 | 3 comments

El Tule: Location of the Widest Tree in the World

We all know about those massive living specimens inhabiting the state of California.  Some prefer the chilly winds of the Sierra Nevada while others are happier experiencing the foggy mornings next to the Pacific Ocean.  I am referring to sequoias and redwoods.  Sequoias are the largest trees in the world in terms of volume.  Redwoods are the taller trees in the world (reaching heights of 370 feet).

But there is another species taking the lead role in terms of widest trunk or largest diameters.  In the small town of Santa Maria del Tule (Oaxaca), a massive Montezuma cypress is famous for having the “stoutest trunk in the world.”

The tree at El Tule (locals call the town in this way), is known as an “ahuehuete” or “sabino” in Spanish.  Don’t get confused.  Many people call the tree “Arbol de Tule” or Tule tree.  Tule is an aquatic plant that grew once in the area because it used to be a swamp (that is why the town got the name).  The correct way to call it is “Arbol del Tule” or the tree from El Tule (notice the extra “l” in the Spanish wording).  Ahuehuetes like water too.  That is why this particular specimen grew stronger in the area.  Some calculate it has 2,000 years of age.  It existence is documented in Aztec and Spaniard chronicles.

Now, a lot of people I know do not believe this is the widest tree in the world (mostly Californians who love sequoias and redwoods).  They say Oaxacans are using the numbers to their advantage. The resistance encouraged me to do a careful research.

The big tree next to the church in the main plaza

The big tree next to the church in the main plaza

 

In 2005, the diameter of the tree was 38.1 feet (and it continues to grow, remember it is alive).  This measurement by itself makes it the widest in the world. But, experts get all technical about these things and start to introduce all sorts of considerations.  They say the trunk of the ahuehuete is heavily buttressed.  If you measure the ‘smoothed out’ trunk (I don’t know how), the diameter is 30.5 feet.  This measurement it‘s still superior than the widest known sequoia.  However, a known South African baobab has a diameter of 33 feet (but there is no citation confirming this on Wikipedia).

 

Wide trunk

Wide trunk

 

What to make of all these?  Well, this is like trying to define what the largest city in the world is.  Personally, I believe the tree at El Tule has the widest trunk in the world.  However, we can forget about records or numbers, this is a gorgeous tree.  Its branches are so big that some touch the floor.  I tried to take a picture of the entire foliage but couldn’t.  I ran out of time to keep “moving farther” in order to get the entire picture.

Side profile

Side profile

 

And you know what else?  The tree has a funny side.  Locals have started to see figures on its branches.  Our guide showed us some.

For example, the one below is clearly a lion.

Lion

Lion

 

This one can be looked in two ways (according to me).  It you see it as an animal facing to the left, you see an elephant.  If you see it as an animal facing to the right, you see a camel.  I prefer to see the camel.

Elephant or Camel

Elephant or Camel

 

In the following one, I see two figures too.  It can be a crocodile (if you focus on the two promontories on the right upper hand corner).  It can also be a person or animal holding something.

Crocodile or Person with Extended Arms

Crocodile or Person with Extended Arms

 

The next one shows a head of garlic.

Head of garlic

Head of garlic

 

There are many more figures but I wasn’t quick enough to photograph everything the guide was pointing out.

Oh, and the town is lovely too.  The central plaza is very well kept and there is a market close to it.

Central park

Central park

 

Municipal Palace

Municipal Palace

 

Church

Church

 

Closeup of church

Closeup of church

In summary, all the interesting figures, the massiveness of the tree, the colorful buildings and the peaceful surroundings made my visit to El Tule one to remember.  And sorry my dear Californians, I am still claiming I visited the widest tree in the world.

Do you see the figures? Let me know in the comments section below.

3 Comments

  1. Great info. I love these “biggest”, “fastest”, “tallest” type posts. BTW, it appears that the tree is going to eat the church in the one photo. 🙂

    • Thanks Lane. I also love this type of posts. It was fun to research.

  2. The included bark of the El Tule is the evident give-away that it’s several trunks merged together. Good chance it began with air-layering of branches years ago since the DNA is the same. Most people who don’t work with tree notice the included bark areas and where they are in relation to the form. So its actually a clump that grew together. But its still a super awesome tree. Glad you posted the close-ups of the interesting features because few people photograph those.

    Cheers,

    M. D. Vaden

    PS … my name is linked to related page.

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