Stories of stories: Four giants of the Forty Acres

Katie Chang, General Life&Arts Reporter

Giants grace the ground of the Forty Acres. It doesn’t take much to spot them. Stand at the corner of Whitis and 24th, and their towering trunks bulge with age. Walk along Speedway on a sunny day, and their outstretched arms provide much-needed shade.

While the trees of UT provide the campus with thermal relief, aesthetic beauty and a bountiful supply of oxygen year round, they also embody the story of the University and the land it sits on. As spring begins to bloom, The Daily Texan compiled a list of four notable trees on campus. 

Battle Oaks

Around the University’s statue of Barbara Jordan stands the Battle Oaks — the oldest trees on campus. At upwards of 250-300 years old, the oaks survived the Civil War, when soldiers destroyed the surrounding oaks to build a fortress around the Texas Capitol. Surprisingly, the oaks attribute their name not to the war, but to Dr. William Battle, who worked to preserve the trees when the University planned to build the biology building on the site.

Littlefield Cedar

The towering Littlefield Cedar stands at the corner of one of the most cherished buildings on campus. Its original owner, George Littlefield, imported the Deodar cedar from the Western Himalayan mountains and even planted it in Himalayan soil to ensure its survival. With its grand horizontal branches, Littlefield Cedar stands as the second largest of its kind in Texas.

Constitution Oak

A powerful symbol stands on the eastern side of the tower building. Planted in 1937 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the United States constitution, Constitution Oak embodies freedom and democracy, principles that prove as enduring as its evergreen nature.

Prosopis Mesquite

Meander around the Will C. Hogg building, and a Texan treasure stands around the corner. Only a few mesquite trees remain around UT, but long before the school’s establishment, thousands of mesquite trees flourished in Austin’s arid climate. The Serrano and Cahuilla people used its thorns to create tattoos and wood to make arrows and tools, and ancient Indigenous populations made cakes from its fruit pods.