BROWNSVILLE — A special ceremony was held at the Palm Resaca Mobile Home Park on Friday for the unveiling of a plaque that honors the oldest anacahuita tree in the United States.
The tree, which is about 700 years old, is located in the park and was measured by botanist and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley professor Andrew McDonald after he was contacted by residents of the park. He said this tree is in some ways a devotion to creation.
“As you can see right here there’s a bloom and for those who don’t know a bloom means sex — it’s reproduction, it’s creation and it’s very healthy,” he said. “We are really blessed to have a tree this size; we’re blessed to have trees that are small size … only 2% of the Valley is undisturbed.”
Beryl Stovell, the resident who started the investigation and has the tree in her backyard, said she had goose bumps when finding out the tree was approximately 700 years old. She said the tree celebrates life.
“It is absolutely wonderful to be one of the custodians of one of the most ancient anacahuita trees that there is, and it’s in our yard, in the Palm Resaca Park, and we all love it,” she said. “It never has a time that it doesn’t have a blossom, it’s always celebrating life.”
The plaque reads that the tree was a seedling before the turn of the 15th century and was therefore already mature and reproductive before the arrival of Spanish explorers to the new world. The anacahuita tree is one of the oldest plants in the Rio Grande Valley.
“This is pre-history, and pre-history is the period where we don’t have any recorded information about this tree and the period during which it came into existence. The estimate is 600 to 700 years ago and I understand that’s when this tree began,” UTRGV emeritus professor and historian Anthony Knopp said.
“It is clear that the weather was cooler and more wet than what it is now, I don’t think this is a great shock to anybody due to the challenges of climate change now.”
Knopp said the Rio Grande passed through where the tree is thousands of years ago. He said the Gulf of Mexico was also 400 feet higher.
The city of Brownsville has been recognized as a Tree City USA for the past 20 consecutive years. Roy Reyes, forester for the city of Brownsville, said it takes preserving trees and events like this one to help generate the report that recognizes Brownsville.
“ It’s great that we try to preserve, as Dr. McDonald said, what we have because sometimes, every time I plant a tree is like a child growing up, trying to put it correctly, let it grow and watch it grow,” he said.
“I always encourage developers to try to preserve the existing vegetation on the sides because we may plant a tree today but we never see it get big so it would be best to preserve what we have.”
State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, unveiled the plaque at the ceremony and said we are blessed to live in a community that offers so much. He also provided a Texas flag to Stovell in recognition for her hard work preserving the tree.
“Generations to come should be very grateful about the work that this generation, especially, is taking part in,” he said. “I, too, believe in not only the sanctity of life, our life, but also protecting God’s creation. We are so blessed to live in an area in our country, in our world, that offers so much.”