Monday, February 18, 2008

Strange Tree


On a hike deep in the forest I found this strange tree and sketched it as I saw it.

I have a theory about how it came to be. Maybe you do too. So here’s a Comment Contest.

A prize pack (a World Beneath audio CD and signed "Visitor Permit" bookplate) goes to the best explanation in each of two categories. Deadline: 9pm Eastern Time Monday. Please, 100 words or fewer, one entry per person.

1. Best scientific explanation.
2. Best fantasy explanation.

Amendment at 9:50 pm to announce winners.

Scientific Winner: Earnest
“I think the tree was originally growing out of either a decomposing fallen tree trunk or a mound of earth. In either case, either the tree trunk eventually decomposed completely or the mound of dirt could have washed away.

This is supported further by the fact that the tree appears to have been growing sideways its whole life, suggesting that it had grown out of some mass that has since broken down.
Fantasy Winner: Eric Orchard
The tree is a doorway. It is made by rabbits, who have secret tree sculpting knowledge. It leads to a world called Lagomorphia. There are doorways to Lagomorphia all over the world, along rabbit trails. The main feature of Lagomorphia is The Great Borough Market. Rabbits from all over the world congregate here and trade different types of grasses. You will find the Eastern Cotton tail, Sumatran Striped Rabbits, Volcano Rabbits and every other type of rabbit. In order to be activated the doorway requires a key : a live rabbits paw pressed on a certain knot.

Tomorrow: Deleted Scene

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scientific:

I believe that lightning or wind caused the tree to bend over and snap, causing it to pull up it's roots in the process. Our heroic tree wasn't going out that easy, and after some time decided to continue it's vertical progression, if not as large as before.

Matt

dragonladych said...

Well I am a biologist but I prefer thinking up a fantasy explanation.

I think this was a smallish Dragon who met a powerful Witch and did something to offend her. She turned him into a tree and he'll only find his original shape again, if someone can guess his story, or sketch him in his original Dragon form. I am willing to try the latter if it helps.

Jennifer said...

I never thought I'd see a tree doing push-ups... :)
This looks like the work of 'sudden' erosion -by flood rains perhaps? The earth below the roots was washed away, causing the tree to slump to one side, where it happily continued growing in normal tree fashion. A fantastic find and lovely sketch. I look forward to everyone else's explanations.

Orlando "O2" Medeiros said...

"How" it happened is classified government information under the article 25 of the Bendy Tree Act, as exemplified by the case of Crooked Oak vs the State of California in 1993, but I can tell you this: it involved copious amounts of wind, some rain, a few years time, three rubber bands, sixty-two thousand fire ants from Alabama who just happened to be passing by, a cranky armadillo and a very surprised young tree.

Either that or that tree is a fan of do-it-yourself who really wanted to become a couch. I think I said too much already...

M.A. said...

This happened when all the other trees were only saplings in the forrest. People were pulling up the baby trees by their roots. All the little trees were crying, screaming and kicking their roots in all different directions. This tree, and we should call him Herbert (because that is his name) took his longest root and snapped it back at the hand that was tugging on it causing the tree puller to let out a gigantic yelp that made the other tree tuggers run to help their comrade. In all the commotion, Herbert was thereby overlooked. His longest, deepest root, the one that saved his life eventually made its way back into the earth where it drew water and strength. That is how Herbert managed to survive. And that is what gives Herbert his unusual shape to this day. Long live Herbert!

Michael Lukyniuk said...

Once upon a time, a farmer was clearing some land and had cut the top of one tree and was in the process of uprooting it when he was called away. He never returned to that poor tree ... but that's another story. Over time the tree began to grow back. Some new limbs shot out at new angles and its roots readjusted despite the fact that rains had washed away the topsoil. Then one day an artist came by and sketched the tree in its new state. How beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Scientific:

I think the tree was originally growing out of either a decomposing fallen tree trunk or a mound of earth. In either case, either the tree trunk eventually decomposed completely or the mound of dirt could have washed away.

This is supported further by the fact that the tree appears to have been growing sideways its whole life, suggesting that it had grown out of some mass that has since broken down.

- Earnest

dananddna said...

A devious retrovirus, originally residing within the cells of a Triassic theropod, was accidentally revived in a secret laboratory on a secret island through a very elaborate procedure that cannot be discussed. The virus hitchhiked across the country for a few years, infecting various organisms as it traveled. It finally settled in the cytoplasm of a young tree. Grateful for the tree's hospitality, the virus decided to return the favor by rearranging the tree's genome. As the virus moved on, the thero-tree-pod spent the rest of its life fretting over where it belonged on the food chain.

Nicolas said...

Obviously, the root had to go around something that is not here anymore. It has to be something rational, a piece of earth, rock, wood that decayed and left this big hole. And the fact that the trunk seems to grow horizontally makes me think that whatever left the hole was also in some way around the trunk on the right side. Or may be he was bending on the right side and his root network had to find a way to keep him sort of straight and tried to grab something on the other side of a tiny stream.
But maybe it is something else. Maybe the tree had a very long hickup during his growth, maybe it is some sort of bonsai designed by crazy faeries, may be he slooowwwly went over an hibernating creature, making sure he wouldn’t make up anyone.

Anyway, for other weird trees to build theories about, you need to check the website of the amazing magazine called "La Hulotte" where they have an online exhibition :
http://lahulotte.fr/accueil.php?osCsid=bdv76261ctj6djgtn44a8e78b0

Thanks again for the blog James !



Nicolas

Eric Orchard said...

The tree is a doorway. It is made by rabbits, who have secret tree sculpting knowledge. It leads to a world called Lagomorphia.There are doorways to Lagomorphia all over the world, along rabbit trails.The main feature of Lagomorphia is The Great Borough Market.Rabbits from all over the world congregate here and trade different types of grasses.You will find the Eastern Cotton tail, Sumatran Striped Rabbits, Volcano Rabbits and every other type of rabbit. In order to be activated the doorway requires a key : a live rabbits paw pressed on a certain knot.

Michael said...

Well, I have a good fantasy explanation.

An Ent (living tree) decided to get up but fell asleep in the process. (See Lord of the Rings)

C. Bontrager said...

it looks like it grew over some kind of boulder or large rock that was removed several years after the tree had been formed.

Cat said...

The tree is a dryad, and was dancing with a satyr when you came by. You can't see the satyr without the Sight, but the dryad had to freeze in place, lest she give herself away.

Heather Lister-Cook said...

This is not a tree at all but actually a 'Giant Tree Weta' often mistaken for a tree due to the excellent camouflage of it's branch like limbs and feelers and bark like skin. A carnivore and a night feeder, this creature sleeps during the day amongst the great trees in the deep forest .. such a deep sleep that it is totally unaware of passing artists and such like, who assume they have discovered an unusual tree! If the same artist was to return at night there would be no time for sketching ...

Dean H. said...

This tree has obviously been through some extremely parched times. The roots were creeping about...leaving home in search of a dog.

Dean

cat said...

And now after posting my explanation, I found the
"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nursery_log">scientific one
. Typical!

Parrish70 said...

These stories are amazing! I hope you are all fiction writers because I want to read more! =) Great stuff! I am afraid I do not have such an elastic imagination so I will have to try for scientific…
It is hard to say without seeing more of the surrounding terrain but it looks to me as thought the tree was at one time growing relatively straight up on the side of a hill and as the hill slowly eroded under the tree it began to tip; thus the nicely arched roots. Then the top of the tree was removed, either by man or nature, and the tree put up a new smaller trunk on the right with a few branches to go with it. The same thing (water?) that eroded the bank in the first place continued to erode the soil under the roots and because this happened slowly the tree was able to survive. Now you have a large gap in the roots that have hardened from exposure to the elements.
I think that is how they get the great exposed root structure in some bonsai. They start out with roots covered in soil and slowly over time they wash some of the dirt away so that the roots will be exposed and give the impression of age.
Okay, that is my story and I am sticking to it.
Colleen

Emily said...

I didn't read anyone else's because I didn't want to be swayed, so sorry if mine have been done.

Scientifically, I think there was a big ol' rock covered in a hunk of dirt, and the tree grew in the dirt, but didn't grow all the way down to the rock. It got stormy for a season and the dirt eroded away and the rock rolled or got pushed away. I think that all happened at a different angle and the tree got pushed over a bit, but kept growing in it's new position.

Fantastically, I think that the tree's were having a drunken tree party and it was this guy's turn to limbo when the sun came up, freezing them all in their positions. He's going to be so stiff when he wakes up tomorrow night.

Michael said...

Okay, so maybe a new approach.

A tree once sat in a forest, the conglomeration of friends surrounding him.

But one day he began to itch for more. Slightly beyond the boundaries of the forest stood a valley of unbelievable splendor. He would catch himself dreaming of the day he could uproot himself and glide freely across the vast fields of waving grass before him. His only concern was that in these fields, he saw no water.

But one day, we caught a glimpse of two children and a dog galloping across the great expanse. He noticed that they disappeared behind a hill, and a few hours later emerged, all soaking wet.

"That must be it!" the tree exclaimed to itself.

So one day, after being scolded by his friends and family, a huge storm came rolling across the valley. The soil became so moist that the tree found it easy to move its roots.

"My time has come!" exclaimed the tree to itself.

After a little budging, the tree freed itself from the soil and began to stretch its roots across the ground. After some akward hustling about and falling on itself a few times to the roaring taunts and laughter of those around him, the tree finally moved beyond the outer edge of the forest.

The sunshine ignited the droplets of water across it's foliage as it careened down in to the valley and toward the Hill of Destiny (as he coined it).

He finally came to the top of the hill, and below such a great and mighty river surged through the valley below him.

He found a good, solid place and dug his roots as deep as he could go. At first it seemed a little lonely, but then others began joining him.

After a time, half of the forest had joined him at the river, spreading their roots deep into the watered soil.

The forest scoffed from their dry hill, saying "Look at those fools, trying something new. Something that has never been done before."

But suddenly something began to happen to the River-trees. The most beautiful fruit began to emerge from their outstretched limbs. Colors they had never seen began to emerge from their limbs, as they clapped and rustled in delight.

Soon a new forest was formed, with fruit never before conceived of, as the dry forest continued in monotone cynycism.

Moral of the story: try something new.


Sorry it's so long. I had a little time on my hands.

Michael said...

Oh, and that wasn't an entry. it was just for fun.

"e" said...

Green blood seeped from the troll’s side.
“The silver knife worked!” Thomas smiled.
Lucy struggled to her saliva covered feet. It tried to eat her, but only after she’d given it candy. One piece. It had seemed harmless enough.
Branches sprouted from the blood stained earth and stretched across the troll’s body. Limbs lifted the bundle as it changed into something new, something horrible.
“A chrysalis,” Thomas whispered.
Life pulsed beneath the bark as it grew. Suddenly, its eyes flashed open and branches shot out like arms. Thomas and Lucy sprang into motion as they shouted, “What have we done?”
:)
e

JasonsArt said...

Scientific you say: I believe the tree used to be underwater, perhaps the water receded leaving the tree roots exposed. And now this is how the tree remains.

Sincerely, Jason

jeff f said...

The tree is really a Faun waiting for an unsuspecting victim, he will then come to life and abduct them to become a slave in the underworld.

Or maybe it's Little Otik...

Katy Hargrove said...

Definitely looks like it has been uprooted in the past. Probably from heavy rains, strong winds, and shallow roots. It was able to re root it's self and continue growing upwards. Looks like this may have happened when it was half as old as it is now. May also have snapped in half(was there a log nearby?) and re sprout from the end, allowing bark to recover the snapped bits.

Katy Hargrove said...

Hmmmm...This may also have been a tree growing out of an old log. Once the log degraded a hole was left in the root system. The tree mayhave been heavy enough that when the log beneath it gave way it flopped a bit sideways under it's own weight.

James Gurney said...

The winners are Eric O. and Earnest. Please email me your addresses so I can send your prizes.

Thanks to all of you. What creativity! It was incredibly hard to choose because I love all of your answers. The fantasy explantions ranged from mythic to science fictional, with all sorts of magnificent creatures: trolls, ents, dryads, fauns, dinosaurs and more. We must all be druids at heart. But I chose Eric’s because the idea was so charmingly developed, and it suggested so much more of a story.

I think most science-minded people arrived at a general consensus about the tree forming on a rotting log and that’s what I had concluded, too. Earnest was the first to get it. You can’t tell from the sketch, but it wasn’t an erosional environment. Don’t miss that wonderful link that Nicolas gave us, “La Hulotte,” which shows a whole gallery of weird tree anomalies that we see all the time around us.

The conclusion I draw from all your comments is that we need the truths of both science and mythology to explain our wonderful world.

Eric Orchard said...

Yay! Thanks!

dragonladych said...

Such cool ideas! And funny ones too. Well done!

Hey fancy someone linking to la Hulotte here! At the museum where I work we use it a lot, it's really a great tool!