I've heard that the Roman Emperor Caligula appointed a horse to the senate, so I suppose it isn't so far fetched that a tree own legal title to a piece of land. Here's the deed, signed March 19, 1990 by North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays and then-Governor Bill Clinton. I called up Mary Munns at the North Little Rock city clerk's office and she made a copy of it for me.
The name of the grantee is LIVE OAK TREE, and the document grants to it and its heirs and assigns, "All land in, under, and within close proximity of root system of said Live Oak Tree located in the 1500 Block of Pike Avenue, North Little Rock, Arkansas." In other words, if the tree dies, the land still belongs to the acorns.
On the surface it might sound a little silly, but there was method in the madness. The whole thing was a legal device concocted by local crusader Audrey Burtrum-Stanley to keep the politically powerful Arkansas Highway Department from destroying this beautiful tree when it extended Pike Avenue. This is the same Audrey Burtrum-Stanley who gave us the Sesquicentennial Sundial just a few blocks away.
Must be some tree, then, right? See for yourself. That's Pike Avenue curving deferentially around the tree. You can tell it's a live oak because it still has all its leaves and the other trees in the picture have dropped theirs for the winter. It's a rare thing to find a live oak this far north, particularly one this large.
This patch of land has been designated a City Park, the smallest in the state. At the dedication ceremony the mayor reminisced about sitting under this very tree as as a youngster and smoking grapevine. Insert your "Clinton Didn't Inhale" joke here.
In the neighborhood: The Old Mill from "Gone With the Wind"