County Public Works crews cut down 'Madonna Tree' on Sierra Highway after it was damaged by strong Santa Ana winds. Courtesy photo, Rick Rezabek.

Wind-damaged ‘Madonna Tree’ cut to stump by workers

The Madonna Tree on Sierra Highway, so named for the image of the Virgin Mary recognizable by many over the past 10 years, was cut down to a stump Friday after Santa Ana winds tore off one of its branches.

Workers with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works trimmed the tree to preserve the charred remains that reportedly feature the image of the Madonna.

“It’s a loss to the community and to the religious community at the icon level,” said Rick Rezabek, who drives by the tree regularly and noticed the tree-cutting Friday.

“Many families brought a great deal of significance to it,” he said, noting DPW workers trimmed the tree to a 10-foot stump.

County public works officials could not be reached Friday for comment.

Over the years, many media reports have documented the lone partially burned sycamore tree on an isolated stretch of Sierra Highway that survived the Buckweed Fire of 2007.

When the fire was extinguished, it left a charred husk in the tree’s main trunk that caused passing motorists to veer off the highway for a closer look.

More than one person has stopped to see what others reported seeing — the image of the hooded Virgin Mary, head bent as if looking at the dusty shoulder of the road, on Sierra Highway about a mile north of Davenport Road.

The image prompted several local people to refer to the tree as the “Virgin Mary Tree” or the “Madonna Tree.”

It has also inspired scores of people over the years to nail their rosaries to the tree, set up a makeshift altar, and hang lights and light candles as a show of respect and awe for the impression left and the image conveyed.

The Buckweed Fire of 2007 devastated much of the Santa Clarita Valley, torching at least 38,356 acres locally, injuring five and destroying 21 homes.

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