Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Lawnmower Tree

Lawnmower tree, Nov. 2012

On the pathway from the Pioneer Hall to the Marina at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground can be found an unusual item that has been a fixture at the Fort since it's opening in 1971 -- The Lawnmower Tree.  Almost gone now, the lawnmower tree was a prominent fixture at the Fort in the early days, even marking it onto the original campground maps in the 70's.  So what is the lawnmower tree and how did it get there?

Fort Wilderness map, circa 1973

Lawnmower tree plaque
The lawnmower tree is the stuff of "urban legends" of Disney.  According to Disney lore, Bill Bowlegs parked his mower much too close to this tree which quickly grew to encompass Billy's mower.  Don't believe me?  It's written right there on a marker next to the tree.  :)
Too long did Billy Bowlegs
Park his reel slow mower
Alas, one warm and sunny day
Aside a real fast grower

Of course, most Disney lore is a slight stretch of the imagination based on some reality.  Long before Disney World became the theme park mecca it is today, the land was mostly orange groves, farmland, and swamps.  There were a few buildings and some abandoned houses surrounding Bay Lake when the property was bought up by Disney's myriad of shell companies.  Most likely, a farmer leaned an old-fashioned push lawnmower against this tree and left it many years prior.  Why it survived the construction and became a staple of the Fort is classic Disney style.  The designers integrated the tree into the history of the Fort and even crafted the poem you see above.  I often wonder if Disney himself observed the lawnmower tree on one of the early excursion trips to the area.  It is often noted that the decision to build on this particular piece of land was made while viewing Riles Island (now Discovery Island) from the air.  Walt probably did not see the tree before his untimely death, but the allure of that idea is appealing.

Unfortunately, hurricanes and bugs have gotten the best of the tree and it had to be cut down in 1997.  Only about four feet of the original pine tree is left.  You can still see the remnants of the lawnmower at the base of the tree along the quaint pathway.  I'm afraid one day it's going to completely disappear.  I can only hope that it will remain in our hearts much like our beloved River Country, Discovery Island, the Fort Wilderness Railroad, the trams, and the peacocks.
Picture of the lawnmower tree from
early Fort Wilderness guide book


  1. What an awesome post! I consider myself somewhat of a Disney historian, and I had no idea about the Lawnmower Tree. Thank you for sharing. :)

  2. Thanks, Rosanne, glad you enjoyed. I've been going to WDW since the early 70s and history of the parks/resorts is one of my favorite subjects, too!