First off, seedlings are available at 79.95 a pop. They’re rare. They’re historic. They’re cool.
The story of their parentage goes back a ways.
Let’s start with the more recent history. A crazy guy in Austin was spurned by his would-be lover under a gracious old Southern live oak that stood downtown amid all the glass high-rise buildings. It happened in 1989. He took revenge by poisoning the tree, injecting it with the powerful herbicide Velpar—actually the amount that would kill 100 trees. The tree nearly died. A crew of arborists came together to save the magnificent specimen, bankrolled by Ross Perot (and aided with the unheralded expertise of tree company Bartlett, it is said). Dupont, manufacturer of Velpar, offered a 10,000-dollar reward to find the culprit. The crazy guy, who confessed he had been trying to cast a spell on his counselor at a local methadone clinic, went to jail for nine years for this heinous act (he’s now deceased).
The Treaty Oak, as it is known, still stands, surrounded by a protective metal chain.
It’s hard to kill an icon.
Just leafing out.
In the Lone Star State things are immense, and the Treaty Oak is no exception. Sturdy, husky, stout of trunk. Still, almost two-thirds of the tree went to tree heaven.
The story stretches back. The Treaty Oak had already stood for a century before Columbus landed in the New World, according to current estimates. The Comanches and the Tonkawas met in its sacred shade to hammer out agreements. Thirteen other equally magnificent oaks stood nearby, in a grove now called the Council Oaks. Legend holds that women of the Teias tribe would drink a tea made from honey and the acorns of these oaks to ensure the safety of warriors in battle. Dances performed there, war councils commenced, etc. Important stuff.
Also it is said that Sam Houston rested beneath the Treaty Oak after his expulsion from the Governor’s office (look it up).
In 1927, the city of Austin purchased the tree from a local family for 1,000 dollars. That same year, the tree obtained national status as the most perfect example of a North American tree, and was entered into the National Forestry’s Hall of Fame. Downtown surges all around it.
So many years passed. The Treaty Oak nearly perished, as we have seen. The intensive efforts to save the historic, even mythical tree included applications of sugar to the root zone, replacement of soil around its roots. the installation of a system to mist the tree with spring water. Although the more negative-minded expected the tree to die, the Treaty Oak survived.
Finally, in 1997, this legend once again bore acorns. Hence the 79.95 dollar saplings. “The creation of a thousand forests,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, “is in one acorn.” A Texas company called Legendary Trees markets youngsters along with the offspring of 10 other famous trees, including Texas A&M University’s Century Tree (the most popular one, reports the company), Comanche’s Fleming Oak and New Braunfels’ Church Oak.
What would make a man, even a crazy guy, poison a tree?