The story of the World’s Largest Rose Tree began in 1884 when, just one day after being married, a young miner named Henry Gee and his bride Mary left Scotland bound for Tombstone, Arizona. The couple lived at the Cochise boarding house until they were able to build a home, and a very homesick Mary became friends with Amelia Adamson, the woman who ran the boarding house for the Vizinia mining company.
By the time James and Ethel Macia purchased the hotel in 1920, the tree had grown quite large. Mr. Macia tore down the woodshed and devised a trellis system of wooden poles and metal pipes that could be expanded as the rose tree continued to grow. More importantly, the trellis created a shady patio that hotel guests would enjoy for years to come. The large rose tree continued to grow, and its enormity attracted a lot of attention. In 1933, John Hix was the first to call it the World’s Largest Rose Tree in his column “Strange As It Seems.”
The hotel was renamed The Rose Tree Inn in 1936. A year later, Robert Ripley arrived in Tombstone, stayed at the inn for a week, and was completely enthralled with the girth of the trunk and the tree’s enormity. Tombstone’s Rose Tree was made famous when it was included it in Robert Ripley’s widely syndicated column “Believe It or Not.” The World’s Largest Rose Tree is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, and its status has never been challenged.
When the Rose Tree Inn was converted to a private residence in 1954, the patio and backyard remained open to the public. The rose tree now covers nearly 5000 square feet in the backyard of the Rose Tree Museum. An elevated viewing platform at the back of the yard allows you to see the tree’s amazing canopy, and visitors are welcome to sit and enjoy the tranquility of the patio – but be forewarned; just as it was in the 1880’s, every once in awhile you’ll hear the sound of gunfire.
Each spring, Tombstone’s Rose Tree blooms for about six weeks in March and April. The town holds an annual Rose Festival in April to celebrate the blooming of the original Shady Lady, and rose lovers come from around the world to see the famous rose tree in all its splendor.