A tree so fat it seems to strain against the confines of the surrounding square, the Árbol del Tule is at least 2000 years old, which makes it one of the world’s oldest living entities. El Tule is a Montezuma bald cypress (Taxodium mucrunatum), a tree the Aztecs cultivated as an ornamental and a source of medicine. Hoary yet flourishing, the giant has a mesmerizing quality: The bark is so thick and gnarled that various growths have nicknames, including “the pineapple,” “the elephant,” and “Carlos Salinas’s ears” (a reference to former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari).
El Tule is located in the village of Santa María del Tule, 13 km east of the capital. The square surrounding the tree features souvenir shops, snack stands, and the usual army of roving vendors.