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Old-Time Photo Fakery, 1900 to 1919
The Great Electric Sugar Swindle, 1884
The Stone-Age Tasaday Hoax, 1971
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 The Curator on Sat Jul 01, 2006
Comments (48)
I'll go out on a limb here:

I don't believe it. The spokes are still shiney. I'd suspect someone hammered a couple of bike parts into a tree. Sort of like the witch/tree collision you see around Halloween.

What kind of tree is it? I thought primary growth (the height) only happens at the ends of tree branches--so why would the bike be lifted up by the bark/trunk?
Posted by JoeDaJuggler  in  St. Louis, MO  on  Sat Jul 01, 2006  at  03:26 PM
I'd suspect the bike wasn't leaning against the tree. Rather, the tree was probably threaded through the center of the bike frame.
Posted by dcl  in  boston  on  Sat Jul 01, 2006  at  03:44 PM
Here's another shot of it--apparently older (the bike is more complete).
http://www.arborsmith.com/treeatsbike.html
I guess the apparent "shininess" in the photo above is an optical illusion.
Posted by JoeDaJuggler  in  St. Louis, MO  on  Sat Jul 01, 2006  at  03:47 PM
JoeDaJuggler, I have a tendency to question the reality of the situation regarding how high off the ground the bicycle is, based on the same point you make about the primary growth of a tree. Let's also keep in mind the age of the tree to be that large, versus the age of the bicylce, leaves one to ponder whether both could have existed at the same time to create such an oddity, or is this just a hoax that has stood the test of time for awhile. Anybody out there know which species of tree that is, and the YR, MAKE, MODEL of the bike??? With those four pieces of info this one could be proven for certain...
Posted by Christopher  in  Joplin, Missouri  on  Sun Jul 02, 2006  at  08:52 AM
If I remember this tree correctly from when I was younger, the way that the tree grew around the bike was this: the bike was placed in the fork of a young tree. Thus, it couldn't fall over, the only way for the tree to keep growing would be to grow around it. And before you say anything, yes, tree branches or trunks can split or fork and then grow back together again. It seems weird to me, too, but I've seen enough individual tree branches that have grown together in my botany classes that I'm pretty sure.
Posted by Vryce  on  Sun Jul 02, 2006  at  07:55 PM
I can attest that is is real, I've been to Vashon and have actually seen it. It still had the front wheel when I saw it 10 years ago...
Posted by Wally  on  Mon Jul 03, 2006  at  01:40 AM
I embedded a pulley wheel into a willow tree just for fun and to see how long it took to be encased. I got the idea from a magazine photo where religious icons nailed to trees were being enveloped by the trees and looked really eerie.
Posted by Louise  in  London  on  Mon Jul 03, 2006  at  01:59 AM
I remembering my botany professor deriding similar stories, noting that trees just don't grow this way. If they did, there would be lots of fence wires, blaze marks and carved initials higher than any person would put them. Tree growth might have embedded the bike but it probably not have lifted it so high off the ground.
Posted by Fred Dawson  in  Beltsville, MD  on  Mon Jul 03, 2006  at  09:28 PM
The tree in our backyard grew around the stake that it was originally tied to. You can now see only about the top foot of it (of a 6-odd foot piece of rebar). I have seen other trees grow around poles and wires that were being used to train them into shapes. I think this is a moderately common occurence (neglectful gardeners, persistent trees).

But if I recall correctly from Botany classes the tree wouldn't raise the object into the air unless the object was inserted very close to the top of the tree (the apical meristem) as that is where growth continues from. If it is stuck in the side it may be grown around but I don't believe that it could be lifted vertically to that degree. But that's just what I think. No guarantees, I'm not digging out reference books, it's summer.
Posted by Anne  in  Reno, NV  on  Mon Jul 03, 2006  at  11:55 PM
As some others have suggested, a tree can grow around and engulf a solid object, but it would not raise it high off the ground. Trees add height from the top, not from the bottom or middle.

Or, as a childhood riddle I remember goes:
"You carve your initials and your sweetheart's into a tree trunk four feet above the ground. Ten years go by, and the tree grows fifteen feet taller. How high are your initials now?" (Answer = four feet.)

If you've ever seen a tree where someone carved something in the bark years ago (especially if they carved the date, which I've seen occasionally), you will recognize that this is true.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Big Thicket, Texas  on  Tue Jul 04, 2006  at  11:21 AM
So, in other words, somebody must have put that bike about seven feet up in the tree before the tree grew around it.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Big Thicket, Texas  on  Tue Jul 04, 2006  at  11:23 AM
In my home town there was a tree that started growing in the branches of another tree and the larger tree grew around it
Posted by tim  on  Tue Jul 04, 2006  at  03:34 PM
"Real" in a sense that there's a bicycle embedded in a tree trunk--OK, I'll buy that. But the tree did NOT grow around a bicycle leaning against it and raise it up off the ground. That part is NOT real.
Posted by JoeDaJuggler  in  St. Louis, MO  on  Tue Jul 04, 2006  at  11:32 PM
Tim there is a rain forest tree known as the "strangler fig" that normally uses this modus operandi. It starts out growing as a vine supported by an older tree, then eventually engulfs the host tree and replaces it.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Big Thicket, Texas  on  Wed Jul 05, 2006  at  12:17 PM
The bike was placed in the fork of the fir tree a long time ago. Jody Boyman took this picture http://www.arborsmith.com/treeatsbike.html
Someone stole the handlebars and fount tire a few years ago.
Posted by Richard Reames  in  Oregon USA  on  Sat Jul 08, 2006  at  09:48 PM
In Rotorua, New Zealand, there is a buried village which was distroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886. Somebody shortly afterwards retrieved a sewing machine from the ashes and hung it on a tree, I guess to pick up later. That sewing machine is still there, and well above people's heads. You certainly can't reach it.
Posted by Lianne  in  Dunedin NZ  on  Sun Jul 09, 2006  at  02:56 AM
Trees grow from the top not the base. the bike could grow into a tree but it would stay on the ground, the way tree's grow into fences. the fences don't lift off the ground
Posted by Amanda  in  Campbell River B.C  on  Tue Sep 19, 2006  at  01:47 AM
Yup, so basically this is fake unless the bike was placed seven feet up the tree. Because of basic biology, there is no possible way the bike was lifted...unless this is some kind of strange tree that grows from the bottom up.
Posted by Alicia  in  Massachusetts  on  Sun Apr 29, 2007  at  06:51 PM
I think it is totally real... check out this photos of trees eating other various metal objects:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/moocat/sets/72157594245781878/
Posted by Matt  in  St. Louis  on  Thu May 24, 2007  at  02:37 PM
Or MAYBE it was a sapling when it was placed in the fork, thus the top of the tree was quite near the ground.
Posted by Guy  on  Sat May 26, 2007  at  12:56 PM
Wow, many of you people must not have lived near trees long enough to see a tree grow from sapling to full-grown. Along one back section of our farm, there's an old fence that's lifted up in sections from where silver maples have grown through it. It's only in some sections where the fence is loose and broken off the posts that it's raised a good 3-4 feet and embedded in the tree. Where the fence is still connected, the trees (and shrubs) have just grown around the fence without lifting it although there is more tension in the fence in these areas.

So if that bike had a small tree grow up around it, then it's entirely possible, even probably. If we say that bike is from the 1940's, which it certainly can be as it looks similar to the 1940's bicycle in his photo (extreme left), then I don't see what the fuss is about. You don't think a tree can get that big in 60 some odd years?
Posted by testsicles  in  NY  on  Fri Jul 13, 2007  at  11:03 AM
Here's another bicycle eating tree, http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-6U8J98
Posted by testsicles  on  Fri Jul 13, 2007  at  11:10 AM
I was born on Vashon in 1983, and both my parents are from the Island as well. I've watched that tree grow around that bike for years. I remember when the tree was still slightly "V-ed" on either side of the bike, I remember when there was a wheel still on it, and when it was only about 4 feet off the ground. It is pretty well hidden. You really have to know how to find it. It's off the main highway on Vashon just off the Sound Foods parking lot. You have to walk a little way back on this very overgrown trail. When I first saw it, it was really obvious that it was just propped up in the V of the tree. You could almost have still dug it out. Honestly, I've watched the tree just grow up around it. Not too much of a mystery I'm afraid.
Posted by Alyssa  in  Tacoma, WA  on  Tue Jul 17, 2007  at  01:42 PM
While everyone seems to be correct about the primary growth, one has to consider that the bike is in a fork of the tree, where the side pressures from the secondary growth are angled as such to be able to "push" the bike upwards. Also, the growth of the root system is being discounted. In unsettled soil or wet climates, the growth of the root system could possibly elevate the visible portions of the tree. Combine that with the possibility that the ground around the tree has sunken and/or eroded, and there is a good chance that the bicycle was indeed simple placed in the fork of a tree and left to its fate. There is a tree on Thackery street in Pittsburgh that has grown around a very old parking rail. There are other rails next to it, all in similar condition, yet the rail inside the tree is markedly bent in the middle, as if upward pressure had been applied. It may have been possible for the rail/bike to be in such a position that the pressure from the combination of primary/secondary growth was such that the rail/bike was lifted, rather than encapsulated; much like a surfer is pushed forward rather than flung into the air.
Posted by Alex  in  Pittsburgh  on  Tue Aug 14, 2007  at  10:04 AM
Consider this:
If the bike was placed in the fork of a young tree the lifting can be explained very well.
Inevitably the branches become thicker and the
gap between them will move upwards.
Imagine placing a hard object within scissors and pressing: the object will be forced outwards. Growth from the base is not necessary.
Posted by Wilfried  in  Klosterneuburg  on  Sat Oct 13, 2007  at  02:43 PM
Check out the famous Brig o'turk "metal eating tree" in Scotland. Not only a bicycle left by a young man who went to war and didn't return, but hundreds of metal objects over the years from an old blacksmith shop. I think they also lay claim
to the famous Red Rider story.
Posted by donna  in  barling arkansas  on  Sun Oct 14, 2007  at  11:44 AM
Sorry, Maybe I should have said Red Ranger story
on my comment
Posted by donna  in  barling arkansas  on  Sun Oct 14, 2007  at  11:47 AM
That's a crazy story. I remember seeing this years ago now, I always thought that it was pretty cool.

What made me think of this was seeing a picture of a tree with a piece of metal, what looked like possibly a shopping cart, poking out of it. I can only assume that the shopping cart was actually embedded into the tree, rather than the tree naturally growing around it, as is apparent with this bicycle.
Posted by Charles Lumia  in  New York  on  Thu May 29, 2008  at  12:48 AM
Give this bike 50 years and let's see how it turns out--

Posted by Pablo  on  Sun Aug 03, 2008  at  10:23 PM
Isn't vashon island where K2's headquarters are? I'd be surprised if this wasn't some sort of stunt put on my K2 to bring some media hype.
Posted by Momentum Sports  in  Cambridge  on  Mon Sep 22, 2008  at  01:05 PM
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