Robust Oak, Quercus robusta
In the 1800s, the Comanche were known for using the Big Bend area for war trails with several different paths to choose from. Their typical destination was either a route of escape from raids on settlers or a journey to Spanish frontier towns in what is now Mexico.
The Comanche often traveled by the light of a full moon; at the time of their raids, it was referred to as a “Comanche Moon”. The Comanche would ride their horses through the harsh desert aware of the location of natural springs where they could rest and refresh themselves and their horses.
Along more than one preferred Comanche war trail there still stands today a Comanche Marker Tree. The tree bent by the Comanche is a Quercus robusta, commonly known as a Robust Oak, a rare species found only in Big Bend. The tree grows in shallow soil, three inches or less, that consists of clay on top of rock. Considering the size of the tree and the density of the tree’s growth rings found in a tree cookie (retrieved from the tree’s deadwood), it was determined to be over 150 years old.
The Robust Oak is in an area that intersects with multiple trails known to have been used by the Comanche in the 1800s and more importantly, it is near water. In the harsh desert lands of Texas, knowing water locations that may have been hidden from the eyes of others, gave the Comanche the upper hand when they went on raiding and warring parties to oppose their enemies.
The tree was officially recognized as a Comanche Marker Tree in 2021, but it was 2023 before the Texas Historic Tree Coalition provided a certificate of recognition to Big Bend officials. Attending the recognition ceremony was Comanche Nation Elder Council Member and Historian, Jimmy W. Arterberry, who noted the tree had been known to some in the Comanche for many years before 2023. Also in attendance were Comanche Nation Elder Council Member and previous Secretary, Phyllis Narcomey, National Park Service Rangers, Steven Schooler and Laren Nowell, and National Park Service Superintendent, Kendell Thompson.