Founders' Oak in snow

Snow-blanketed the Founders’ Oak in Landa Park in February 2021. 

Colorful tree flowers and leaves of various shades of green welcome nature lovers into Gazebo Circle in Landa Park. Along the fast-moving crystal clear stream of Spring Run No. 3, arching branches of native Mexican buckeye trees explode with dark pink flowers. 

Following an unusual and incredibly cold winter, one notices small shiny fresh green leaves emerging from almost bare stems as a welcome to Spring in Landa Park. Along this same winding path, on the other side of this stream, one has a good view of the beginning of the Texas Hill Country — wide strata of horizontal bands of limestone rising up to the street above and beyond.

This is the Balcones Fault, which not only divides the scenic Hill Country from the fertile Blackland Prairie, but also gave rise to the magnificent Comal Springs which are the largest natural springs in the North American Southwest. These springs are consistent with some of the earliest human habitation sites in North America. Artifacts and features reveal that Paleo-Indians were occupants of this site more than 13,000 years ago. The Comal Springs are the heart of Landa Park and of the thriving community of New Braunfels. 

Also in Gazebo Circle, one should investigate the dark purple to black small flowers along the leafless stems of the paw paw tree. The ripe fruit is yellow, mango size, contains many seeds, and has a tropical taste of pineapple and banana. These trees were introduced into this area in 2010 by means of a $10,000 joint tree grant from the McKenna Foundation issued to Friends for the Preservation of Historic Landa Park and to the City of New Braunfels Parks and Recreation. The paw paw was just one of 137 trees of 40 different species planted in one day throughout Landa Park along the William and Dolores Schumann Arboretum Trail.

An Arboretum Guide Map is available at the parks office. Through the year, there are many trees in this arboretum that have colorful and fragrant blossoms. 

This mass planting activity was a fantastic opportunity to provide the community some ownership of the work they did in the park and to share in enthusiasm about trees. Every year, numerous trees need to be replaced following damage due to weather.

 One ancient (more than 300 years), majestic live oak tree has weathered the times and remains as a sentinel on the bank of Landa Lake. This tree, known as the Founders’ Oak, is located near the German Pioneer Monument and the paddle boat concession and serves as a chandelier for Landa Park. 

In front of this tree is a chronological marker that estimates that the acorn from which this tree originates had its planting around the time (1700) that the Spanish Explorers were traveling the El Camino Real and stopped here at the Las Fontanas as they headed West. 

This New Braunfels Sesquicentennial marker also documents major world and U.S. events since this planting. This is a fascinating recording of relevant history. 

In addition, this grand oak is a Famous Tree of Texas which has long paid a part in the activities of the founders of this community. The first school teacher of the colony conducted group singing beneath the boughs; Abbe Domenech offered mass in 1849, and annually after 1846, citizens of New Braunfels gathered on July 4th to read the Declaration of Independence and to dedicate themselves to the principles for which it stands. What a relevant practice in need of revival!

 Many photos of this enormous and historical tree are recorded in the Friends’ pictorial reference book “New Braunfels’ Historic Landa Park: Its Springs and Its People” which is available for purchase at the parks office, the Sophienburg Museum and from the Friends website at friendsforlandapark.org. This book about Landa Park is a great opportunity for newcomers to appreciate this focal point in historic New Braunfels.  

One photo seldom seen is a snow-blanketed Founders’ Oak in February 2021. Since this extreme weather condition is seen approximately every 30 years in this part of Texas, this means that tree has survived 10 such chilling events as one can now witness in the oak pollen laden blooms and new spring leaves.  

Friends for the Preservation of Historic Landa Park will be gathering at the flower bed in front of the Founders’ Oak on Monday, April 12 at 10 a.m. to socialize “utilizing best practices” and to maintain this area following the winter freeze.

Friends’ membership consists of the four local garden clubs and interested individuals concerned with preserving this historic beauty spot of Texas. Participation in this and all Friends activities are free and open to the public. Come join us in this event at this amazing jewel in the heart of New Braunfels. 

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