Treaty Oak is an unassuming tree nestled in downtown Austin with a robust history as the last surviving tree from the “Council of Oaks.”
The tree has ties to the Tejas, Comanche, and Tonkawa tribes prior to European settlements. The location was significant for establishing peace or declaring war among the native nations of central Texas. The tree is also tied to Texas legends, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. It’s believed the tree once represented the first boundary established by settlers between their settlements and native tribes. In 1927 it was proclaimed “the most perfect specimen” of an oak tree and was inducted into the American Forestry Association’s Hall of Fame.
More recently, the tree was poisoned with a herbicide in 1989. Scientists testing the tree found that enough herbicide was used to kill 100 trees. DuPont, the maker of the herbicide, offered a $10,000 reward to catch the person responsible. Paul Cullens was later arrested for the crime. Against all odds, the tree survived the poisoning and began producing acorns again in 1997. The City of Austin collected many of them to raise saplings that were planted around the city.
Treaty Oak is a special tree representing many eras of human history. The skyscrapers around the area may dwarf the size of the tree, but it’s worth the stop to marvel at its size and history.