Quercus alba

White Oak: Sign-Eating Tree


Nolt and Colebrook Roads (490 Cole- brook), Mount Joy PA


Jack Brubaker (LNP, June 6, 2018, p. A18); Jim Hoffman; Sylvia Hernley


According to Jack Brubaker, over a century ago someone nailed a metal directional sign to a White Oak which, by the middle of the 20th century, grew over it to form “two bark knobs.” By 2018 no one knew what the sign said (possibly it gave the distance to Maytown).


The tree fell on May 20, 2018,  before the presence of an embedded sign could be verified with a metal de- tector.  Also, as far as is known, no one chopped through the tree after it fell to discover the sign.  “What was a natural curiosity,” Brubaker said, “has become a historical curiosity.”

Trees do engulf objects every once in awhile.  The most famous example is a bicycle "eaten" by a tree on Vashon Island, Wash. (see last photo). Accord-  ing to local lore, a young man "went off to war in 1917 and left his bicycle against a tree.  He never returned from the war and his parents left it there as a memorial" (Sam Dickson, The Vin- tage News, Aug. 29, 2016).  The prob- lem is, it's a 10-year-old's bike, not a young man's; and the bike is a model from the 1950s.

The truth is that an 8-year-old named Don Puz was playing in the woods in 1954, forgot his bike when he went home, and left it there because he disliked that particular bike.  Someone apparently hung the bike from the tree (it's 7 feet off the ground), and the tree -- a Douglas Fir -- eventually engulfed it.  The bicycle and tree are now a ma- jor tourist attraction on the island.