The Mystery of the Crooked Forest

The Mystery of the Crooked Forest

Natural Wonders | Poland  |  9 Comments | All Travel Posts

The Crooked Forest is a place we could almost have listed in our review of travel places that look like Dr. Seuss illustrations if it weren’t tinged with such creepiness. The forest is more like the sort of place a band of weary heroes would have to traverse towards the end of a dark fairy tale. Or maybe it would work best for a scene in a mystery novel. That would be apropos since the trees here are in themselves a mystery.

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crooked forest poland The Mystery of the Crooked Forest follow me on pinterest button The Mystery of the Crooked Forest Here’s what is known:

• Sometime in the early 1930s, someone planted about 400 trees near the town of Greifenhagen in what was then Germany.

• Something stunted the growth of the trees and caused them to grow horizontally—all facing due north—for some period of time.

• Somehow, around 1940, the trees curved back towards the sky and started growing back up.

The sometime, someone, something and somehow of those facts are all unknown.

The growth of the trees could simply be the coincidental result of natural factors such as soil type, tree infestations, erosion, snow falls, and/or the availability of light.

Another theory holds that the trees were purposely grown to be curved, perhaps by a boat maker or a carpenter. The curvature of the trees certainly bears a resemblance to the hull of a small boat.

Spot Cool Stuff has been working on a third hypothesis that involves an extraterrestrial plot against humanity.

[ ALSO ON SCS: The Mystery of the Hill of Crosses ]

Regardless, the trees were planted in politically contested territory that saw a great deal of fighting towards the start and end of World War II. After the war’s conclusion in 1945, new international borders were drawn and the Crooked Forest ended up 3 kilometers inside Poland. (The town of Greifenhagen was officially given its Polish name, Gryfino). Whoever planted the trees either perished in the war or felt unable to return to their land that was now in a new country.

Today, there’s no sign pointing the way to the Crooked Forest but it isn’t hard to find. Use our map, below, and ask locals to point you to “Krzywy Las” if you get lost. The way to the forrest makes for a nice bicycle ride from Gryino or the German town of Mescherin. That is, if you dare to visit such a mysterious place.

published: 17 Jan 2012
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  1. Jay says:

    The same growth formation happens when any pine tree loses it’s leader (the terminal bud at the top of the trunk). What you’re seeing here is the result of numerous very young trees probably not much larger in diameter than a thick pencil, who all lost their terminal buds in the same “event” when the total height of the tree was not much taller than the height of the major kink in their trunk. Once this happens, the strongest lateral branching bud takes over as the new “leader”. Because lateral buds face outward, it would grow an abnormally large branch that over time would head for the light causing it to bend upward in this manner. The reason it hooks back on itself is to regain it’s centre of gravity to improve stability. Because the trees have been around for so long, the trunks have thickened to the point that the once small scar from losing the terminal bud has all but completely disappeared from the bark growth pattern giving the false impression that the trees intended to naturally grow the way they did.

    As to why they all face a certain direction is not that clear without knowing more about the context of the site. Perhaps whatever snapped off the terminal bud also shaved off or damaged the other lateral buds leaving only the southward facing ones to grow; perhaps they were intentionally pruned that way for (as someone else guessed) a boat building exercise; or perhaps something was built or placed overtop of them just above the ground that gave them only one direction to grow in order to grow out from underneath it and whatever that was has either been removed or was made of materials that have since decayed into the forest floor. The only natural disasters I can think of that would cause such uniform damage are floodwaters, the shock and heatwave from a volcanic blast or meteor impact, or an avalanche.

    Food for thought…

    [Reply to this comment]

    Jay Reply:

    …I meant northward facing buds.

    Also I didn’t have a close look at the wider angle photos when writing about the idea of something being placed or built over them. They’re all over. Also of note is there doesn’t seem to be any trees that are older than the bent ones which leads me to place my bet on a large explosion or meteor impact similar to the well known Siberian event from 1908 that leveled an entire forest… all in the same direction.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Sarah Woodwards Reply:

    My thoughts exactly, blast damage. It is too uniform to be man-made pruning etc.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Spot Cool Travel Stuff Reply:

    Wow! Jay. What an insightful comment!

    We are certainly not aboreal experts, but all the trees do seem to be about the same age. I’d be interested to know whether the explosion in Siberia that you referenced created a similar sort of crooked forest there.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ~ SCS

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. titus says:

    Amazing… Looks spooky and fun all at the same time.
    titus recently posted..Virgin Beach Resort Cebu: #1 for Fun in Daan BantayanMy Profile

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  3. Elise Walsh says:

    Tree’s are so awesome- surviving and learning to thrive in to their environment. Yay nature!
    Elise Walsh recently posted..10 Free Things to Do in Hong KongMy Profile

    [Reply to this comment]

  4. rashmi says:

    Wow…that’s really interesting!I am looking forward to know what the third hypothesis will be.

    [Reply to this comment]

  5. Rich says:

    Wow those are some amazing looking trees!!!!
    Rich recently posted..Funny Stories in Las VegasMy Profile

    [Reply to this comment]

  6. Suraj Nair@Panoramic Universal says:

    Amazing wonders of natures. I think that the reason for this strange growth is related to ecological imbalance. Now such places have become a famous tourist spots.

    [Reply to this comment]

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