clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The History & Future of Cahuenga Peak's Beloved Wisdom Tree

New, 10 comments


The easy-to-spot tree sticking out like a floret of broccoli from the trail on Cahuenga Peak is an unofficial local landmark, a popular spot for mid-hike selfies and shots of the incredible view. Mark Rowlands is a fan of the tree and the guy who keeps the boxes at its roots stocked with pencils and journals; he first spotted it in 2007, before it was accessible to the public, when he flew over the peak in a helicopter after a fire had scorched much of the mountain. The lone pine tree, though "definitely singed" by the fire, was one of the few things that hadn't been totally charred, he tells LA Weekly. But that was before the land was public and before the tree popped up on widely-distributed maps. Since then, the tree—whether it's called the Wishing Tree, the Tree of Life, the Magic Tree, the Giving Tree, or, its most popular name, the Wisdom Tree—has become the peak's most famous resident. What's its deal?

· Rowlands placed a green ammunition box filled with journals there for everyone to use. He takes pictures of the contents ("I would say 95.95 percent of it is really profound and meaningful. It's certainly a special place for a lot of people.") and uploads them to a website.
· According to one legend, the tree was planted 35 years ago by a man named John Smirch, who got the then-sapling as a free giveaway from McDonald's. Another legend says it was intended as a Christmas tree, but was planted instead.
· The tree wasn't on public maps until the last few years; the mountain officially became public land in 2010, after a long campaign (when the Hollywood Sign was covered so it read instead "Save the Peak") and some eleventh-hour help from Hugh Hefner.
· Since it's been put on the map, the tree has popped up in millions of photos on Instagram and Twitter. Someone even made the tree its own Instagram account.
· Not all the attention has been positive. More people visiting has translated into more litter in the flat area surrounding the tree. Some visitors have carved their names into the tree, while others have left graffiti on nearby rocks. The escalating disrespect rattles Rowland, the Wisdom Tree's pal. "My worst fear is that some asshole will take it upon themselves to chop it down and make a big bonfire. I wouldn't put it past them."

Hiking in Griffith Park #cahuengapeak #wonderviewtrail #treeoflife #wishingtree #wisdomtree

A photo posted by Edwin Chau (@chauz3r) on


#WisdomTree #LosAngeles #California #KeepItHikeHundred #Hiking

A photo posted by Eddie (@eddie.rodriguez_) on


What's your New Year's Resolution? Write me a note! #wisdomtree #griffithpark #hiking #hike #losangeles

A photo posted by The Wisdom Tree (@the_wisdom_tree_la) on


A photo posted by @cassieberger on



· The Wisdom Tree Is Becoming an L.A. Landmark. But Will Fame Kill It? [LAW]
· Hugh Hefner Sends Over Check, Hollywood Land Saved [Curbed LA]