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Bicycle-Eating Tree
Status: Real
image The bicycle-eating tree is probably familiar to most residents of Washington, since it's located on Vashon Island, Washington (and won a 1994 contest to select the most unusual places or events in the Washington-Oregon area), but it's new to me. Apparently someone, decades ago, left their bicycle leaning against the tree, and as the tree kept growing it enveloped the bike and now lifts it seven feet off the ground. I think it's amazing that a) the tree actually grew around the bike instead of pushing it over, and that b) in all that time no one ever moved the bike. The bicycle-eating tree has been featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and also inspired a children's book by Berkeley Breathed, Red Ranger Came Calling. Breathed used to live on Vashon Island. (via CaliforniaTeacherGuy)
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Sat Jul 01, 2006
Comments (48)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
Yes, K2 used to be on the island, but they left because of the price to getting to and from the island. They still own some buildings there. Anyway, it wasn't K2 that put it there. It's buried way back the the bushes in some woods not near the old headquarters. It was just some guy that put the bike up in the fork of a tree. I watched it grow up that way (being from Vashon). Its that simple!
Posted by Alyssa  in  Tacoma  on  Wed Sep 24, 2008  at  04:14 PM
If you go to disney land in florida there is a lawm mower in fort wilderness that a tree grew right thru the middle and it is still on the ground,
Posted by GENE KELLY  in  CAPE MAY N.J.  on  Sun Nov 30, 2008  at  05:05 PM
There's a tree like that in my back garden, along the railway line... There's also a tree that's grow from a crack in between two blocks on part of the bridge, and as it's got bigger has made that part of the bridge wall collapse... These things happen, I don't know why you'd think they were hoaxes =/.
Posted by Alice  in  UK  on  Mon Feb 16, 2009  at  04:27 PM
It's become a kind of art to put things in a tree...
Posted by Julia  in  UK  on  Tue Mar 31, 2009  at  02:55 PM
Trees grow from the top up so even if the tree did grow around the bike it isn't possible that it lifted it 7ft up in the air.... biology 101... learn ur stuff! Lol raspberry
Posted by Z  on  Thu Apr 08, 2010  at  05:28 PM
dads old he put the bike there in elementry school he graduated high school in 63 it can happen and I believe!
Posted by Adair  in  originaly vashon dads old bike (LOL)  on  Sat Nov 20, 2010  at  09:30 PM
The tree is believed to have belonged to Claire Hartvigsson (her married name, her husband also grew up on Vashon) by her twin brother, Bud. He was a real prankster. These families settled on Vashon in the early days of Washington and more than a few generations of Norwegians were born and raised there. Bud never would admit he had done it, but he chewed the end of his cigar and snickered when people tried to get him to admit it. Both of them are long gone now, but I know Claire's daughter and the family has always called it "Claire's bicycle".
Posted by Wendy Sutich  on  Mon Dec 06, 2010  at  09:54 PM
I should think that anyone who still insists that this is a hoax should be prepared to call Alyssa a liar.
Since I have seen far crazier things I'm content to believe it.
Rules about tree growth can't possibly apply to all trees evenly any more than rules about human nature apply to people evenly.
Posted by johnweeks  on  Mon Sep 05, 2011  at  11:06 AM
Can't tell you how the bike got there, I suspect I tossed it because I didn't care for the bike. It was donated to my family, me, when I was about 8 years old after our house burned down taking my dad's life in the fire. It was an old bike when I got it, had hard rubber tires and handle bars that were skinny like the old tricycle tires. This was about 1954 or 1955, when my mom bought a house on the other side of the intersection of what became Sound Foods, about 100 yards, maybe 150 yards from that tree. Us neighbor hood kids would play down there, it was a swampy area that had frogs and tadpoles to catch. We would also climb alder saplings and play Tarzan by swinging down to the ground from them. The tree is either a Douglas fir, or a hemlock. Back then it probably was not over 10 feet tall as nothing down there was very tall. At any rate the bike was "not cool" in the eyes of a little kid, with its hard tires and skinny handle bars, 20 inch wheels or so, and I hated it. How it got in the tree I don't know for sure, but I do know it is my bike. I moved from Vashon in 1991. In the late 90's my sister was over visiting my mom on Vashon from New Jersey so I showed up to see her, she had heard about the "Bike Tree" and suggest we go see it. Until then I did not know anything about it. She said it was down in the woods behind Sound Foods. We went down to look. and the first thing out of my mouth was "That's my bike!!!". Don't know how many of those they made, guessing pre WWII, but I can bet that you couldn't find another one like that on Vashon Island, let alone within 100 yards of my mom's place (she still owns the house there). You can see the interview the local paper, The Vashon Maury Beachcomber did with her about it, although she had the reason I hated the bike mixed up with the next one I got, a blue girls bike.
Posted by Don Puz  in  Kennewick, formerly of Vashon  on  Sun Feb 26, 2012  at  11:01 AM
This is no hoax people! I was born on Vashon and lived there until I was six. One of the most vivd memories I have of the island is the bike in the tree. It is such a major landmark to the people of the island that they have taken care of it. When some vandals removed one of the wheels, the people of the island put it back. (The photo seen here is after the vandals removed the wheel I have more recent photos of it with the wheel back I wish I could post) This tree is something special. It's home especially for me. I went back this last summer and it was still there just higher up. It's something I can always count on and I think for anyone who has seen the bike in the tree it is something special you commit to memory. It's as real as you and me. It is grown into the tree and it is amazing. If you ever get the chance to see it you should.
Posted by Bethanie  in  Everett, WA  on  Sun Feb 26, 2012  at  11:15 PM
Objects, overgrown by a tree actually isn't that extraordinary.
You can find examples all over the world. I even saw it myself on different sunday walks. But of course, the bike is an amazing and stunning example for that quality.

I love trees. They are just great, aren't they. And aways show us our own perishability, don't they?
Just try a search on a search engine, e.g.:

greetings from germany
Posted by Norina  in  Hannover, germany  on  Tue Feb 28, 2012  at  06:19 AM
A friend of my brother's sent him a picture of this (the Vashon Island bike) that had "Harley Davidson" name and logo and "Granite State" printed above the picture and then told the tale that a young man had chained it there when he left for WW I and when he never returned, the tree engulfed it. Sounds like the tale that has "grown up" around the "iron tree" or "metal-eating tree" in Brig O'Turk, Scotland as noted in comments above. I think there is probably a way for a tree to grow around a bicycle, but I am interested about the story of the young person who went off to war and never returned. If that has been verified somehow, I would be interested in some links to that source. Otherwise that tale ought to be clearly labeled a fiction. -- Thanks, Jay Powell, San Diego, CA
Posted by Jay Powell  in  San Diego, CA  on  Wed Feb 29, 2012  at  02:08 PM
for Mr Fred Dawson in Beltsville, MD - his Botany Professor needs to broaden his horizons. The world of botany is miraculous, may I say especially in our North-West. Every day brings more surprises, raining 9 months a year does interesting things. This tree and bike story is just a small example. See an older picture of the same at - Its real and notice, its a girls bike. the story on the "www" of some boy leaving it to go to WWI, was invented.
Posted by John Martin  in  Kirkland, WA  on  Tue Apr 17, 2012  at  08:16 AM
I've seen many signs eaten by trees, if fact a co-worker brought in a photo of one she just took. I know I've seen a photo of a tree growing around a motorcycle so here is a cool like:
Posted by Patrick  in  New Jersey  on  Thu May 24, 2012  at  06:46 AM
I was told many stories about this bike from my great grandmother when I was a young boy. She grew up on Vashon Island before moving to Maryland. Apparently back in 1914 a young man left his bike chained, not simply just leaning, to this tree and left to become a soldier during WWI. Unfortunately, the young man had died while fighting for his country and his family decided to leave the bike there as a memorial to him. Over the decades the tree grew around the bike and as it was still growing in height lifted it off the ground. I have seen trees grow around objects many many times, whether it is a post, pipes and other metal bars and the most common thing I have seen a tree grow around is barbed wire.

*** I know some may say this so I will clear it up before that happens. I did say that this young man left it there when leaving to become a soldier in 1914. Now I realize that America didn't enter the war at that time, I just said that was when he apparently left home to join the military. In fact America was neutral at that time and were simply preparing in case we indeed had no choice but to enter WWI. I believe that it actually wasn't until April 6, 1917, two days after Pres. Woodrow Wilson delivered his war address to Congress, when we declared war on Germany and entered into WWI. ***

Posted by Dave  in  United States  on  Mon May 28, 2012  at  07:55 PM
i guess he decided the chain his bike 7' above the ground (which would be above a "boys reach") cause trees do not grow up out of the ground. they grow from the top and get wider at the base. if this story had any truth to it the bike would still be at ground level. lol. cool pic though.
Posted by Matthew  in  st Louis mo  on  Mon Oct 08, 2012  at  04:12 AM
Actually, a tree engulfing a bicycle is entirely possible. In my youth, in Salem, Oregon, there was the site of an old motel located on a slight rise, where Winding Way joins Commercial Street. There was a grove of old douglas fir trees on the rise, and one of them had engulfed a tin "Western Union Telegraph" sign. About half the sign poked out of the tree truck, and it was imbedded several inches in the wood. The gent who commented about the bike not being lifted by the tree is true, also. Trees grow outward, but only upward from the top. A spike driven five feet up in the trunk of a tree will remain five feet up, forever. The fact that the bicycle was seven feet up only means that it was placed there. Can you not imagine why this happened? It was likely that some bullies took some poor kid's bicycle from him and hung it out of reach in the tree.
Closer to home, there is a similar feature. Along the grade of the abandoned Klamath Lake Railroad, near the border between Jackson and Klamath County, there is a barbed wire fence where the barbed wire was nailed to young oak trees instead of posts. In the hundred years since, the trees have engulfed the wire, which is now engulfed about half way through the tree trunk. There is a scar in the bark where each strand of wire was engulfed, which gives the appearance of a mouth that has swallowed the wire. It's really bizarre, but I didn't take a picture of it when I last saw it.
Posted by Scott Gavin  in  Klamath Falls, Oregon  on  Fri Nov 23, 2012  at  09:29 AM
Reminds me of the old saying, "A woman needs a man, like a tree needs a bicycle". This tree wanted a bicycle when it was just a sapling. Poor tree didn't understand that trees don't ride bikes - but someday, someone may make riding helmets to fit trees. Either way - if you spend much time in forests, as some of us do - you will encounter trees that have grown up around various items such as fences, and old trucks. There are at least two old phone lines that grow through a couple of large hemlocks, in Fort Worden. As for the Vashon tree - it is obvious that the thick branch that crushed the bicycle seat against the tree trunk, had at one time, grown under the bike seat, eventually lifting the bike, and crowding the seat.
Posted by Mark  in  Bremerton, Washington  on  Fri Sep 27, 2013  at  09:18 PM
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