PHOENIX – Medusa. Mother. El Viejo.
This ancient tree in the Tonto National Forest has gone by many names.
Its exact age isn't known, but experts with the Tonto National Forest estimate it is between 600 and 1,000 years old.
The Medusa Mother Tree, an alligator juniper named for the flakiness of its bark, has survived many fires in its lifetime, signified by the scars on its branches.
This week, firefighters worked to make sure the Woodbury Fire, which has now burned almost 125 square miles in the Superstition Wilderness, didn't cut its life short.
"They did take extra efforts to put some protection measures in place in the area, and they think that was successful," said Kay Beall, a fire information officer.
Where is the Medusa Mother Tree?
The tree sits approximately 4,900 feet into the Superstition Wilderness in a wide, flat valley near Reavis Ranch, according to the Tonto National Forest.
Reavis Ranch was named after Elisha Reavis, better known as the Hermit of the Superstition Mountains. Beginning in 1876, Reavis lived on his ranch in the Superstitions, growing cabbages, parsnips and potatoes – with an apple orchard that still exists today.
As the Woodbury Fire began to spread, people began posting on Facebook, concerned about the fate of the tree and inquiring what was being done to save it.
In an effort to protect the area, firefighters dropped chemical-filled ping-pong ball-like spheres from the air to start a low-intensity fire around the Medusa Mother tree to burn off fuels.
"When the wildfire approaches, the idea is that it would lay down because the fuels have already been exhausted," Beall said.