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The Tree of Ténéré

It is almost midnight.  I tried going to bed 3 hours ago, but I keep mulling things over in my head.  After an hour of staring at the ceiling I decided to get up and try to distract myself on the internet.  Hopefully my mindless surfing can serve to enlighten you.

As I was browsing a list of natural oddities in the world, I came across The Tree of Ténéré.

When it was still alive, this tree was the only vegetation in the Sahara within a 250 mile radius (That’s Bowling Green to St. Louis or Atlanta in all directions!).  As the Sahara dried out further, all other vegetation died… except for this tree.  A well dug in the area revealed the roots went down over 120 feet into the water table.  At the time, it was the only tree worthy of mention on major maps, and was a primary navigational tool for caravans.  An official in the area described it as such:

One must see the Tree to believe its existence. What is its secret? How can it still be living in spite of the multitudes of camels which trample at its sides? How at each azalai does not a lost camel eat its leaves and thorns? Why don’t the numerous Touareg leading the salt caravans cut its branches to make fires to brew their tea? The only answer is that the tree is taboo and considered as such by the caravaniers. There is a kind of superstition, a tribal order which is always respected. Each year the azalai gather round the Tree before facing the crossing of the Ténéré. The Acacia has become a living lighthouse; it is the first or the last landmark for the azalai leaving Agadez for Bilma, or returning.

Despite its noble existence, the tree came to an end in a very ignoble way.  In 1973 a drunk driver lost control of his truck and hit the only object in hundreds of miles.  After surviving (perhaps) hundreds of years of some of the harshest elements imaginable, this tree meets its end because some idiot has too much to drink and gets behind the wheel.  Unbelievable.  Surely there is a moral to this story.


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