It's Time To Learn What Bent Trees In Nature Really Signals
Cailyn Finkel 2/28/2018
With summer right around the corner, it's time to get excited about all of the outdoor activities we couldn't do during the chilly winter months. From swimming at the beach to hosting barbeques by moonlight, the summer offers us so many options to explore Mother Nature.
However, there's something important you need to know about before you strap on your hiking boots and douse yourself with bug spray. It has to one of nature's most well-kept secrets...
The official American Forests site explains that the Native American used bent trees as important trail markers. The indigenous people used straps to tie down the trees and, after years of being kept at a certain angle, it forced them to grow with a permanent bend!
Native Americans recognized these bends as natural arrows and used them to stick strictly to safe paths. The site explained this further:
"Native Americans would bend young trees to create permanent trail markers, designating safe paths through rough country and pointing travelers toward water, food or other important landmarks.
Over the years, the trees have grown, keeping their original shape, but with their purpose all but forgotten as modern life sprang up around them."
Even though you may be excited to spot a bent tree in the woods, not all crooked plants are trail markers. Several important details can help you locate a real trail marker rather than a weathered tree!
A vast majority of the crooked trees you see while exploring the great outdoors are due to rough weather, uneven ground and natural reasons. The trail marker trees to keep your eyes peeled for usually have a notch (also known as a nose) at the point of the bend, like in the image below.
Native Americans made these notches by inserting a piece of wood into a hole and letting the tree grow around it as the years passed. Fortunately, there's another way to tell the difference between a crooked tree and a trail marker!
When looking at the top of the bend, you may be able to spot scars from where Native American placed the strap as a sapling. These scars are the only other way to tell the two types of bent trees apart!
Sadly, a large number of these trail marking trees are close to 200 years old, which is roughly the average lifespan of these native trees. Additionally, expanding suburbs and a growing human population also means that they run the risk of being dug up and removed by developers.
To combat the destruction of these fascinating trail marker trees, someone created the Mountain Stewards website. This site and its users carefully mapped out more than 1,000 bent trees around the country. The group hopes that this will encourage Americans both young and old to experience the warped trees before they're taken from us for good!