The oldest living thing at the Houston Zoo

There are many living things within the boundaries of the Houston Zoo. Can you guess what the oldest living thing here is? The first thing a lot of people think of is perhaps a parrot, or a tortoise. There are days that the zookeepers work so hard they may feel like they are the oldest thing in the zoo.  But all of those answers are wrong.

Live_Oak-0020-7303Near the jaguar exhibit and Wortham World of Primates is a magnificent live oak tree. It is cared for by our wonderful Horticulture Department with love and patience, and it pre-dates any other living thing in the zoo. Here are some of the things that have happened while it was growing into the amazing tree it is today:

While not an exact measurement of age, some formulas estimate that the tree was germinated in approximately 1721, making it about 293 years old. Settlers were just beginning to come to the area, and there was a lot of unrest with the Native Americans living here.

The construction of a church in San Antonio that would later be known as the Alamo was begun in 1744. The tree was already 23 years old.

In 1832, the Allen Brothers began to buy land in the area.  In 1836, they founded Houston, and Sam Houston captured Santa Anna that same year. The tree was now approximately 115 years old.

In 1845, Texas became the 28th state. Our tree had already been here for 124 years.Live_Oak-0016-7290

When the infamous Hurricane of 1900 hit the Texas coast, Galveston was devastated and many lives were lost. The tree was then approximately 179 years old and survived the remnants of the storm that moved inland.

The tree saw the first automobile arrive in Houston in 1901, and the Houston Ship Channel completion in 1914. When the tree was approximately 214 years old, the first air service was brought to Houston with Braniff Airlines.

The Houston Zoo was started in 1914, and moved to Hermann Park in 1922. The tree was approximately 201 years old when the zoo began to grow up around it.

Some of the zoo staff fondly refers to the tree as “Abuelo” (Grandfather).  Rather aptly named, since Live_Oak-0017-7299this tree has seen staff come and go, and yet it still stands. It has seen battles, storms, construction and a lot of change and yet, still it stands.

Next time you come to the zoo, stop for a moment and consider our old Grandfather, and everything this tree has seen.

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