Relax everybody. The big tree at El Tule was not damaged by the fire yesterday. I was receivng phone calls throughout the day yesterday that the tree, a swamp cypress, or Moctezuma cypress, also called an ahuehuete here, had been destroyed by arsonists. I hesitate to print anything I hear and only half of what I see. In this case, discretion proved to be the better part of valor.
At 1:30 am yesterday morning, a several thousand year-old tree caught fire in El Tule, home of the world's oldest tree and possibly also the world's biggest by total mass. The tree that burned was not the really beeeeg one that is so famous.
The tree that caught fire sits behind the Palacio Municipal (city hall) on private property. When the fire was discovered, fire departments from Oaxaca responded. They fought the blaze for 12 HOURS and it sent several firefighters to the hospital before it was extinguished. And the tree survived.
That gives you an idea of the massive size of these behemouths. Imagine any tree that you have ever seen, with the possible exception of a California sequoia, that could burn for twelve hours while having 25,000 gallons of water poured on it, and survive. And it wasn't the first time this tree had burned.
On April 29, 2005, the same tree was hit by lightning. Fire departments from Oaxaca as well as a Pemex fire fighting squad responded to that one and fought that fire for an entire day. Some portions of the tree's massive trunk and lower limbs were reduced to charcoal from that fire.
This time, fire department officials speculate, high winds caused carbonized limbs to rub together with so much force that friction set the charcoal afire.
The big tree, known as El Tule, is estimated to be between 2000 and 5000 years old. It's trunk is 33 feet in diameter and 178 feet in circumference. It stands 130 feet high and has a foliage diameter of 170 feet. Its trunk gives it the appearence of being several individual tree trunks that have fused together over the centuries. Scientists have conducted DNA tests on the various contortions in its trunk and those tests indicate that the tree has only one trunk. It's weight is estimated at 500 tons. That's i million pounds, approx.
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TAGS: Oaxaca, Mexico, El Tule