In recent days, a photo of a 100-year-old tamarind tree with branches that look amazingly like the open legs of a naked woman became an Internet sensation.
The tree, which is purportedly located at a police station in Thailand's northern province of Phayao, was said to not only resemble a woman's sex organ, but also has the numbers "008" printed mysteriously on the trunk.
A vagina-shaped tree in Thailand reportedly helped people win a local lottery. But could this be a hoax? The first English-language paper to publish this uncredited photo is the Phuket Gazette.
In most cases, a tree that resembles a female's private parts would be amazing enough, but the story goes that locals who saw the mysterious numbers chose to play them in the lottery -- and won.
The story originally appeared the Thai-language newspaper Thai Rath, but was picked up by Tabloid Prodigy from an English-language rewrite in the Phuket Gazette.
Thongphian Thammakhan, 50, the owner of a shop on the police station grounds, supposedly told the Rath that the tree is about 100 years old. She said the tree has always had the gash in the trunk but has only recently developed the shiny mound. Villagers are apparently unsure as to why the lump shines.
However, there are aspects to the Vagina Tree story that smell funny to skeptics like Richard Rubacher, an expatriate writer living in Bangkok.
"None of the locals I've spoken with have even heard of the tree," said Rubacher, who has been living and writing about Thailand since 2001. "One tourism official just laughed and said, 'It's a hoax.' "
Rubacher believes that a tree shaped like a vagina is hard to miss and says that its existence wouldn't go unnoticed in Thailand.
"On the island of Koh Samui, about 400 miles from Bangkok, there are two rock formations that resemble male and female genitalia and they are very popular -- families flock to it," Rubacher said. "So you'd think a tree like this would have been reported before."
Adding to his skepticism is the fact that the story hasn't been reported in either of Thailand's top English-speaking newspapers, The Bangkok Post and The Nation, although he said the Phuket Gazette is considered reputable.
Rubacher interviewed Songsak Wannawijit, a police official who works at the station where the alleged vagina tree is located and he adamantly denied the existence of the sex-organ-shaped tree.
"I never heard of such a tree," Songsak said, before excusing himself for a moment to look outside. "I just looked at the court yard again. The vagina tree is not there."
Rubacher said the police official insisted that news reports about the tree's existence are definitely a "gohok," the Thai word for hoax.
He added, "If anyone had won the lottery, I would have known, as this would have been big news around here."
Until the veracity of the vagina tree can be proved, fans of sex-organ-shaped trees have to focus their attention on a vagina tree in McCarren Park in Brooklyn, and that has Brooklyn boosters like The Brooklyn Paper editor Gersh Kuntzman rubbing their, uh, hands with glee.
"I think I speak for all Brooklynites who love vaginas -- and I'm speaking for a lot of people, so I understand the gravitas -- when I say that the only place to truly enjoy a vulva of any kind is in McCarren Park."