The famous trees of Texas
Not all of the famous trees in Texas are special solely because of their size. Trees in Texas have also been honored for being the sites of Indian campgrounds, the center of Texas, and deaths.
There are approximately 300 kinds of trees that grow in Texas, according to the Texas Forest Service. Texas comes in behind three other states with 72 trees recognized as National Champions.
Of the famous trees in Texas, the Big Tree at Goose Island State Park (pictured) north of Rockport on the coast is one of the most impressive. Gnarly branches twist more than 44 feet into the blue sky from a trunk that is 35 feet and 1.75 inches in circumference.
Declared the Texas State Champion Coastal Live Oak tree in 1966, the Big Tree has weathered coastal storms for more than 1,000 years. The former national champion has been replaced on the registry by a live oak tree in Young County that is 4 feet taller.
The Big Tree is about 10 miles north of Rockport, on the north side of the I-35 bridge over Copano Bay and east of the highway. It is often called the Lamar Oak or Bishop's Oak after a small port that was near the location that included a retreat for the bishops from Corpus Christi. The town was destroyed by Union naval bombardment in 1865 and was only rebuilt with a smattering of vacation homes nearly a century later.
In a park along a creek in Burnet is a live oak tree that looks like it was bent almost horizontal to the ground by a horrible wind storm. Instead, it is a living memorial to the Comanche bands that once camped along the creek. As a sapling, the top of the tree was tied to the ground to mark a good camping site. As it grew, it maintained the position. The Indian Marker Tree is in the park behind the Highlander Restaurant at State Highway 29 and Hamilton Creek in Burnet.
Near the tiny town of Mercury in northeast McCulloch County grows the Heart O'Texas Oak. In 1922, it was determined that this was the geographical center of the state. The tree grows on private property east of U.S. 377 but can be seen from Ranch Road 1028.
Many trees in Texas were used as makeshift gallows, some by legitimate courts and some by vigilantes. In Goliad, a giant oak still stands on the courthouse lawn that served that grisly role for the local government. Called the Cart War Oak because of its use to execute a murderous band of robbers, it still shades the lawn.
The Texas Forest Service maintains a list of famous Texas trees and the registry of state champions at texasforestservice.tamu.edu. For the registry of National Champion Trees, go to the American Forests website at www.americanforests.org.
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