When Hurricane Harvey, which struck the Texas coast last week as a Category 4 hurricane, lost power and became the reigning king of tropical storms, it enabled one of Texas's oldest trees to survive, virtually unscathed. As the storm dumped 50 or more inches of rain on Houston and surrounding areas, and many in its path probably would have preferred a bit more wind and a lot less water, the reduction in wind power spared many trees and structures even as it destroyed countless others.

But in not interrupting the life of the live oak known as the Big tree, the pride of Goose Island State Park, this freak-of-nature storm left Texas in possession of what is believed to be one of the country's two oldest trees -- the first oldest being another live oak in nearby Brazoria County.

The Goose Island State Park website credits the Big Tree with having withstood "hundreds" of hurricanes -- "Most I'd rather forget," says a plaque at the tree's base. (Texas Monthly put the number at "more than 40." Chances are, the tree itself knows better!

What's the 'Big Tree's' secret to longevity?

The Home Guides section of SFGate.com notes that live oak's root structure, being wide even as it is shallow, serves these gentle giants well. Roots extending outward as much as 90 feet (27.4m) from a tree's trunk provide stability similar to, say, that of a swing set with cross arms extending out from its upright supports.

The extended roots also provide much more "grounding" than nature provided many of the 15 million or so trees felled in a several-hours-long windstorm in the UK in 1987.

Many tree species where it often rains enough that roots don't need to dig deeply for water have adapted to that situation over the centuries to a point where many trees that otherwise might have deep roots (as nature intended) have very shallow ones. The roots are so shallow that they are insufficient to sustain the weight of the tree they're designed to support.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which provided the accompanying photo, says it shows that while many nearby trees lost branches (and others, just out of camera range, were lost), during the storm called Harvey, the "Big Tree" continued to stand tall and proud.

Other near-tragedies for the 'Big Tree'

The 'Big Tree' is said also to have survived a great fire that leveled the nearby town Lamar, a Civil War battle, and a 2011 drought so severe that the tree had to be doused with thousands of gallons of water to provide its needed sustenance.

Through it all, the "Big Tree" has, according to the plaque at its base, continued to "provide shelter and acorns for squirrels, jays, raccoons, bobwhite, deer, javelina, and most other member's of our [Nature's] community."