El Árbol del Tule (Spanish for “the Tule Tree”) is a very large tree located in the church grounds in the town center of Santa María del Tule in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, approximately 13 km (8 miles) from the city of Oaxaca on the road to Mitla. It is a Montezuma cypress and is 43m tall, has a circumference of 36m, and has the largest trunk diameter of any tree in the world at 11.42m. It is so large that it was originally thought to be multiple trees, but recent DNA tests have proved that it is only one tree.
The age of El Tule is unknown, with estimates ranging between 1200 and 3000 years. Local Zapotec legend holds that it was planted about 1400 years ago by Pechocha, a priest of Ehecatl, the Aztec storm-god. The tree is nicknamed the “Tree of Life” for all the images of animals that are reputedly visible in the tree’s gnarled trunk. This is the inspiration for “The Tree of Life” in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a massive fourteen story (145 ft.) tall artificial tree with carved images of 325 animals.