Cypress trees are part of the redwood family and can grow as tall as 120 feet, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. They naturally grow in the southeastern United States, their roots latching onto the nutrient-rich soil along waterways. Their westward reach extends into Central Texas.
Many live 600 years, while some can reach 1,200 years old. To help extend their longevity, Foundation staff members manage the trees’ health, looking holistically at their place in the ecosystem. Not only do they present an idyllic environment for us to enjoy and play, like youth campers do when they race down a zipline into the river, but their root systems aid in flood mitigation by anchoring the soil. Their canopies provide ideal homes for migratory birds, like yellow-throated warblers and northern parulas.
“They’ve grown into this beautiful view that you have from the Great Hall,” said Kevin Wessels, assistant director of property planning and stewardship. “How many Laity Lodge sessions have heard the whispers of from the river? How many guests have looked out across the river and just been in awe of these big cypress trees? Maybe they’re on the younger end of being ‘witness trees,’ but they’ve already witnessed things that have passed into history.”
Since the original trees were planted, they’ve reproduced and more have sprouted. Today, more than 350 cypress trees have taken root in the Canyon—from Echo Valley to Windsong to main entrances. The stretch from the Echo Valley waterfront to Pebble Beach is home to the most, with about 90 trees. A certified arborist annually inspects and prunes the trees to both ensure the safety for us under their boughs and to help these hearty trees keep thriving.
“Hopefully, there are many, many more years of relationships formed and cultivated wholeness that will occur under these trees, and they will continue to be long-term witnesses to the history of the H. E. Butt Foundation and what God is doing in the Canyon,” Wessels said.