Miracle Mary image in a cemetery tree.

Virgin Mary in Miracle Tree Stump

Northern California is known for its amazing trees -- the giant redwoods and mysterious strandoid mutants along the Avenue of the Giants. So few were surprised during the holidays when a striking new breed of tree was discovered near San Francisco -- a tree that bears an image that some say looks like the Virgin Mary.

Reports trickled into Roadside America the week before Christmas, as local news picked up the story about the miracle in Colma, just south of San Francisco. Our team flew out to investigate. Colma, known as the " City of Repose," has 20,000 residents, but only 500 of them are alive. It's San Francisco's official cemetery city, home to the graves of Wyatt Earp, Emperor Norton and other bay area dead people.

preview of ground level Mary. After entering Olivet Cemetery's main gates, we notice parked cars and a small crowd congregating in the rear of the grounds -- it's the miracle tree! A Greek Orthodox priest stands near a cluster of flowers and candles. A few dozen people pray or stare at a gnarly crevasse at the base of the tree [29k jpeg]. It is quiet, like a church. The priest looks on, his brow furrowed, as a few seek his counsel. An onlooker whispers to us that the image is a Madonna and Child, and is brand new -- the" other one has been around for over a week."

Other one?

Miracle Mary tree #1.Turns out we are gazing at a second Virgin-Mary-in-the-tree apparition, discovered later by the faithful after they fanned out over the obviously sacred real estate. It's an overflow miracle of sorts. We hop back in the car and head for the earlier sighting, noticing lone devotees standing between rows of tombstones, staring reverently at other trees...

In the southwest corner of the cemetery, a much larger crowd radiates from the base of an arboreal giant. About 20 feet off the ground, a branch stump seeping sap has taken on the image of the Virgin Mary. Scores of votive candles are clustered around the base, along with other offerings: a loaf of bread on a low table, personal messages tacked to the trunk. A crowd of sixty, mostly Hispanic, stand gazing at the image -- some pray or clutch flowers, others shoot video or photos. Families clamber to the back of the tree, attaching ribbons and religious items. A daring teen uses his car keys to pry loose souvenir bark. Colma is a town aglow.

[01/11/1998]

Olivet Memorial Park

Address:
1601 Hillside Blvd, Colma, CA
Directions:
Olivet Memorial Park. The tree itself is easily visible on the northeast corner of Hillside Blvd and Hoffman St.
Hours:
Cemetery gated after hours. Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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