25 January 2012

The "crooked forest" of Gryfino (Poland) - updated


The link for the embedded photo was sent to me by Jennifer Fox, with a request for an explanation, since her web search had not proved satisfactory.

Several possibilities come to mind.  It's obvious that the trees were bent when very young, then recovered.  Those who live near large lakes with prominent ice heaves will have seen trees affected in this manner, and a similiar effect could occur after a blowdown by straightline winds.

I get the sense that this forest is a tree farm, because of the uniformity of age of the trees, and I suspect this is a man-made curvature, because of the similarity of all the trees involved.  If that's true, then my best explanation would be that these trees were trained as "compass timbers" for shipbuilding or as material for other woodworking.  See this post from last fall on that subject.

This blog gets about 500 visits a month from readers in Poland; perhaps someone can offer a definitive answer.

Photo credit: tapenade.

Addendum January 2012.  One of the curious aspects of blogging is that you never know which posts will be popular or produce sustained interest.  I posted the above about a year ago, and it has continued to accumulate hits (40,000 so far!) and comments, so I thought a repost with an update was warranted.

One of the early comments included a link to Discovery News, with a map showing the location of this forest:


The bent trees are in a small suburban area, surrounded by normal trees (evident in some of the photos in the gallery at this link).

Re the etiology, my original postulate was that they were bent by humans for shipbuilding timbers or other woodworking.  Others chimed in with suggestions of "gravity anomalies," crop circles, the Tunguska Event (!!), "evil," and tank maneuvers.

I favor the later suggestion that the trees were intended to be used for furniture making in the "German Jugendstil style (1900/30), which is noted for its numerous curvilinear features."  Another reader offered a link to this photo of a sledge with curved wooden runners:

72 comments:

  1. According to a couple of webpages in Polish, the trees were planted around 1930. One hypothesis states that they were bent by a carpenter to use for furniture making. They were cut and forced to grow horizontally for a while before being allowed to grow upright. But nobody's really sure. More info here:
    http://www.gryfino.pl/WrotaGryfina/chapter_56734.asp
    and
    here:
    http://www.gryfino.powiat.pl/index.php?show=tur_wane_kras

    In Polish, of course, but Google helps to translate. :)

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    1. As the bark pattern changes near ground level, it indicates the top of the young tree was removed and the lowest side branch was allowed to grow out and then trained up as you have stated. Most pines do not like to be topped and can die as a result. So this must have been done when the trees were young, and whoever did it knew what they were doing. Trees grow slowly in poor soils or in dry areas.
      Larry

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  2. Thank you, Kinga. Furniture would make more sense than ship timbers for the time period.

    I'll see what I can find on Polish wooden furniture.

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  3. Though I have no Polish ancestry, nor speak a word of it (as far as I know), I find one small problem with what Kinga wrote. According to him (or her) the trees were planted in the 1930's, which would make them close to 80 years old, and the photo show trees which are closer to only 30 years old, and based on the girl near the edge, I would say that this is a modern photo. So this cannot be a photo of those trees.

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    1. This depends on what sort of tree it is. A thin tree can in fact be very old depending on how fast it grows. If this was in Sweden (where i have experience with trees) i would say those trees would be about 100 years.

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    2. The trees would be severely stunted by that kind of manipulation. Like any other plant. In any case it seems agreed this was done manually.

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  4. DaBris...I was only quoting what the Polish websites had written. I'm no expert on trees, but I am fluent in Polish. If you use Google translate on the first page, you'll see that it states "It's estimated that the forest was planted around 1930".

    Maybe it is an older photo after all?

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    1. Co za asy! Kinga, if you are fluent in Polish, then why would you use Google Translate?

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    2. I don't believe that was what Kinga said or meant

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    3. Kinga was definitely saying "go look for yourself" hence the need for the translator since DaBris doesnt speak polish.

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  5. It would depend on the type of tree. These look like conifers, so presumably would be reasonably fast-growing and less than 80 years old.

    But another interpretation of the source quote would be that the plantation was started in the 1930's and harvested for decades until abandoned more recently, with these being the last crop.

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  6. Very many years ago, I remember reading an article in the local newspaper about a local forest where all the trees in a particular area had a bizarre twist to them.

    All the trees in this section were saplings when a heavy snowstorm buried and bent them over. Held in this position into spring, the new growth locked the trees in this position. Over the years, the trees grew forward to set themselves upright again, leaving them all with this strange, bend and reverse curve in their lower trunks.

    I have a birch tree in my backyard that grows sideways due to being pinched over by a snowstorm forty years ago. It has always been a fantastic shade tree because it covers so much at just the correct angle to the sun through the day.

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  7. It could be gravity fluctuations. There is a well-documented spot in the US, in Oregon, where gravity is not vertical but at an angle. The trees there grow at an angle to the trees adjacent to them, which is visible from a distance. Perhaps this spot in Poland had a similar gravitational anomaly when the trees were young.

    Looks to me like the result of a severe ice or snow storm with high winds.

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    1. Idk, I was thinking the same thing. I mean this was during WWII in Nazi territory, maybe it was an experiment. Not saying I know for sure but Nazi scientists were cooking up some mindblowing new technologies. Maybe they were buried by snow but Idk what your experiences are with snow but it's pretty light in my opinion.

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  8. First thing that came to my mind when trying to figure the trees out were crop circles. Many of the more interesting/mysterious crop circles have the stalks of the crops bent over at a 90 degree angle but the plants are unharmed and still alive. My thinking was that maybe the same thing had happened to a grove of tree saplings. Over time as they continued to grow they straightened out (sorta) and started to grow upwards.

    Dirtpoor's idea about the snow bending them over makes more sense though...

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  9. I have seen similar features form on trees that are subject to slope creep (or soil creep). I wonder if this is a possibility?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downhill_creep

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  10. As a trained forester and wood scientist, I've seen this a couple of times in my career. But first off, these trees are much younger than 80 years (they were not planted in the 1930s). By their appearance, they look to have been planted in the 1960s or 1970s.

    The shape can be induced by laying a heavy object over a 4 to 8 year old tree stem. Phototropism will cause the stem beyond the heavy object to grow toward the sky, while the growing stem beneath and behind the heavy object will develop what is called morphogenetic compression wood - which ultimately makes the curve in the stem permanent.

    A second cause is simply heavy snow load combined with a long spring melt. Usually these type of bent trees are seen at higher altitudes, and they are fairly common. The trees become photosynthentically active as the angle of the sun increases during spring. With a snow load still on the stem during this period, however, compression wood forms as the trees grow - resulting in a permanent bend. Eventually, the stem height becomes higher than the snow, so the stem straightens.

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  11. Thank you, anon, for an authoratative comment.

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  12. That's GMO seeds at work for ya! Welcome to the NWO.

    GMOs'= Morgellon's illness so if you eat soy, corn, cottonseed or corn (oils or otherwise) this is what it will do to your offspring's spine.

    For more info on GMO's visit vimeo and search for Jeffrey M. Smith He has scientists that worked for Monsanto who back up his claims.

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    1. Oh please, this is not caused by GMO, the trees are too old for that. Don't be silly, be informed.

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  13. Anonymous said...

    "It could be gravity fluctuations. There is a well-documented spot in the US, in Oregon, where gravity is not vertical but at an angle."

    The Oregon Vortex is an optical illusion. Let's not gum up this fun discussion with pseudoscience mumbo-jumbo.

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  14. "crooked" is less unusual than you think. I visited the ones in Canada, amazing.
    check: http://www.google.com/search?q=crooked+trees&hl=en&biw=1034&bih=751&prmd=ivns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=3erjTd2mIYe8sAP3oq0W&sqi=2&ved=0CC4QsAQ

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  15. what King has is correct. The practice started in the 1930's, the art bending trees was perfected by craftmen, I am not sure if it was for ships or furniture. However, the practice as stopped in the area when the forest became a Polish national forest.

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  16. The comment about this being from crop circles is complete crap. Why do you still think crop circles are mysterious? They are man-made (Doug Bower and David Chorley made videos on how they made them); check out these links:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qzvuqs9Bf7Q
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_opN9ghPKQ&feature=related

    It's like you don't even know the internet exists, though you are clearly using it.

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  17. No need to argue, children. Sometimes things are more interesting when surrounded by mystery. Regardless the reason, this is an awesome pic!!

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  18. I perceive evil when I look at that forest. Evil forests are (as far as I know) very rare, but I believe they exist on every continent.

    An evil forest gets it's "evil" from an event in the past. I'd suspect THIS one, being in Poland, got it's evil from something the Nazis did there during WWII.

    Since these trees are only 30 or so years old, this goes to show you just how strong evil can be. The evil of the forest has crippled these trees 15 to 25 years after the event!!

    Now, I say "evil" has crippled the trees. But that is not really what I mean. The crippling is a "tribute" or "remembrance" of what happened. It's almost more of a reminder of evil than it is a form of or incarnation of evil.

    Robert Baptick
    Griffin, GA

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  19. What is unusual in this photo is the similarity in the format of all the trees.
    Those are the "serpent Pines" from Leiria Portugal

    http://augustomota.multiply.com/photos/album/212/212
    http://augustomota.multiply.com/photos/album/35

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  20. I grew up in Gryfino (seventies) - this is my little research and explanation. There was a major fighting going on in 1945, area being a staging ground for forcing river Oder, last major obstacle on the road to Berlin only 100km away.
    A unit of soviet tanks drove over young pines. Snow and mud kept them alive. After healing, they started to grow up. Simple.

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    1. Exactly my opinion. Didn't know what country's tanks did it, but assumed it was German tanks. If the bending was done deliberately all the trees would have been bent. The same thing applies to wind or snow, but some of the trees are still straight in the background. Obviously they were a "trampled" by tanks when they were young. Pines in different types of soil grow at different rates, therefore they could very easily be 80 years old.









      t

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  21. Anon, the problem with your explanation is that these are fast-growing conifers (pine trees) that are much younger than 65 years old.

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  22. I like the "flattened by Soviet tanks" explanation. By their look I'd say these are Scots Pine which grow extensively over this part of Europe and are relatively slow growing.
    According to Wikipedia: "Scots Pine is an important tree in forestry. The wood is used for pulp and sawn timber products. A seedling stand can be created by planting, sowing or natural regeneration. Commercial plantation rotations vary between 50–120 years, with longer rotations in northeastern areas where growth is slower."
    So these trees could easily be just the right age for the flattened saplings story.

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  23. My theory is that while the ground was still frozen, a blizzard with northward winds, exceeding 70 miles an hour, blew the trees over at the stumps. The frozen ground prevented the roots from lifting out of the ground, so the stumps took all the stress, at the frost line, nearly breaking them off. When the show melted in the spring, the trees began to grow again upward towards the sunlight.

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  24. "Human mechanical intervention." The question is not what but why:

    http://news.discovery.com/earth/polands-crooked-forest-mystery-110628.html

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  25. Looks like these trees grew that way. Nothing would just bend a full-grown tree at the base of the trunk! Trees are remarkably strong, you know. That's why they make good houses, ships and such! My question would be was this a one-time occurrence or do saplings still grow that way in that forest? A park ranger must know that. These trees are still living, and reproducing, right? It's not the petrified forest or anything? If so, the same conditions that created them would do the same thing to the saplings. If not, it was an unusual historic event, weather phenomenon or something.

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  26. The curve of the trees will be due to the Tunguska event.

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  27. Tunguska. Right. 7,767 km away according to Google Maps. No other trees blown down except at Tunguska and here in Poland.

    Right.

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  28. Hello, I have been to Gryfino last May,and took many photographs of the trees, some of them from very close to try to understand.
    First, what is striking is that they look like the trunk has been cut off when they were young and that the side branch that grows when you cut this kind of tree was held down before letting is grow straight up. This is the only way I can explain why the first bending of all crooked trees is at an angle and never a curve.
    Second thing to remember: Gryfino, was German when the trees were planted.
    So if we want to find information about furniture and cabinet makers who would have used them we should look at German Jugendstil style (1900/30), which is noted for its numerous curvilinear features.
    For me this tree farming could have been started as a way to have strong, not carved curves but would have been abandoned with Jugendstil not becoming as popular and everlasting as the growers would have expected... and curves being replaced by the pure straight lines of the Bauhaus.

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  29. Anon, I agree with you.

    (Jugendstil is the German term for "Art Nouveau").

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  30. I live in Poland and i found that accidently. I didnt even know its in Poland.

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  31. I have to agree with the latest anon. My family has been growing Christmas trees in northern WI for over 50 years. We have lots of similar white spruce, balsam fir and domesticated Scots pine that look the same way. They were cut off above the first of second years growth, surviving branches continued to grow, and geotropism forced them to take on a vertical aspect. At Gryfino all but the strongest branch was removed. Easy to replicate if you have the time.

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    1. and all of the strongest branches grew towards the same direction? by looking at the pictures all the curves are in one direction.

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  32. I have 70 acres of land and have seen this before. Also land owners that want to cut trees but want further growth will cut the tree just above the first branch (on conifers only) to have growth for a future tree. The branch will then grow up to another tree. Since it is a side branch, it will then grow up, leaving the curvature in the branch. Then, we will have a whole new tree.

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  33. Thank you, Gary. A very interesting and sensible suggestion.

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  34. http://www.terra-z.ru/archives/13641

    best match

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0e/Sledge.JPG/800px-Sledge.JPG

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  35. 1) Look close there are trees that are bent AND ones that grow straight near them that appear to be the same size/age.
    2) My grandfather from Poland- wood worker- used to grow trees in his yard in USA and bend them to be used as a living bench or arch way. When asked why he said it reminded him of home - and his father used to do that to make hand rails and other decor for the homes of the wealthy.
    3) It is true that slipping land will cause a tree to bend - there are many examples in many places like the slopes of a hill side and near the banks of a rivers. The Rogue River in Oregon has many examples and for the record there are NO similarly bent trees at the Oregon Vortex. The Vortex is an interesting place to visit however.
    4) With as many trees in one location some bent so severly at the base others still straight, I suspect it is man caused and I think it was deliberate not accidental.
    5) That said it is never going to be proven unless you cut one of the trees and scientificly study the rings and the weather and the history of man's activity in that area.. so just enjoy the view and know somethings just are..

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    1. Anon, you might enjoy looking at the links at this post -

      http://tywkiwdbi.blogspot.com/2008/04/extreme-arbosculpture.html

      re your grandfathers' creation of a living bench.

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  36. See Kevin McCloud's grand Designs Series 3 episode 3 about Ben Law a woodsman who built his own cruck framed house. He used trees trained into this shape as the roof timbers. The twist on the end enables diagonal timbers cut with tenons to fit squarely into vertical timbers with mortices. his websitewww.the-roundwood-timber-framing-co.ltd.uk features his work, the fourth or fifth picture in the first gallery shows a tenon cut into one of these timbers, it's not very clear, but do watch the grand designs episode , the house is really beautiful.
    Cheers
    Pat Shammon

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    1. Interesting photo of that tenon cut in. Thanks, Pat.

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  37. we should send this to mythbusters.

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  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  39. I'm student of Forestry in Brazil and I confess that this article got my attention!
    Congratulations!
    Super cool!!

    Renatinha Araújo.
    www.glamourfeminino.blogspot.com
    Twitter: @Blog_GF

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  40. There are some pretty strange ideas flying around here! Evil. Sideways gravity. GMO.

    No rebutting evil as a cause; this is belief, not subject to logical discourse.
    Gravity, by definition, does not exert itself sideways to the source (in this case Earth).
    GMO: probably best to start with some basic science reading first. If there is a discussion to be had around GMO plants it has to be rational and fact-based. GMO plants won't make your kids grow donkey ears, nor curved spines.

    Growing bent wood for sleigh runners or furniture? If one was willing to really patient, waiting 20-30 years minimum for a tree, I guess some very unusual furniture could be made by deciding to grow bent trees. That's some pretty patient furniture makers. For sleigh runners? Those were made by bending wood; perhaps a bit pedestrian in comparison, but infinitely more practical. Think how hard it would be to make trees grow predictably in the right curve over a 20-30 year timespan, for one thing! Sure you could do it, given enough time and enough effort, but steam bending would be much simpler.

    Saplings that were broken but not killed, and saplings that were cut above the first branch are both rational explanations. The latter is, as is said above, not at all uncommon. There are many examples of trees like this in our Coastal BC forests; my family has seen lots of them.

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  41. Look up the Dancing Forest in Russia for another good example.

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  42. http://www.designboom.com/eng/education/trees_erlandson.html

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  43. I believe they are enchanted.

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  44. First things first someone knows what tree is it??
    Antes que nada alguien sabe que clase de arbol es??
    Na pierwsze pytanie to ktoś wie co drzewa jest on
    Jemand weiß, was Baum es ist

    andan mas perdidos que el teniente bello

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  45. I had a tree that looked exactly like this in my backyard in Pontiac, Michigan. Incidently the home is in the Historic District and was built in 1930.

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  46. Grafting is the answer to this question. You can see in the photo that approximately 6 inches above the ground, the trees were cut at a 45 degree angle. The upper portion was then rotated 180 degrees and grated back to its original trunk. This placed the young tree trunk parallel to the ground, forcing it to slowly and naturally curve upwards toward the light. This is a common form of tree shaping dating back several hundred years. What an entertaining variety of other posts.. evil forces..enchanted forest..army tanks..crop circles..gravity flucuations. Really? Really?? I hope this correct answer helps solve the mystery of the minds.

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  47. I'm going to have to agree with the grafting theory. You can't deny that there is a clear 45 degree angle. As to the age question: When plants are stressed they tend to grow a fraction of the rate they normally would. So it is possible that they are much older. And for another thing I don't think you could positively identify the species from the photo.

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  48. All I can add is the fact that this type of conifer adds one whorl of branches per year, so if you count the tiers, you get a rough idea of the tree's age.
    I think the stems were cracked deliberately. Are arches popular in the locals' homes?

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  49. I agree with the grafting theory as you can see a distinct and surprisingly straight fissure line at the 45 degree angle. As for the species, someone previously mentioned Scotch Pine (or Pinus sylvestris)and I concur for many reasons. Firstly the coloring is consistant, when Scotch pines near maturity their trunks turn dark and furrowed while the upper bole and branches retain an orange to salmon pink color. Another indication are the pine cones on the ground, they are roughly the right size (1.25 to 2.5 in). European foresters favored the Scotch pine for reforestation and erosion control and as such it was widely used across Europe and is found often in even aged stands.
    As for the age, it is impossible to know how old they are. Maximum hight is 115 ft and maximum dbh (Diameter breast height) 2 ft, but any number of factors can retard growth in both aspects. Though a rough estimate can usually be made using the 1 whorl of branches per year theory, if the trees were particularly stunted while young those whorls would be lost as the trunk grew outward in later years. The only way to know would be to go there and take a core sample.
    I referenced Harlow & Harrar's Textbook of Dendrology (9th ed.) by Hardin, Leopold and White for most of my information.

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    1. Thank you, Hannah, for a thoughtful and well-researched comment.

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  50. My theory: Had seedlings and planted for a farm as you typically would. When it was seen what was growing, and realized not the seeds he wanted, so graded the land over it to reseed for normal harvest with proper seeds. I say this because if you look at some of them, they are not properly lined, tree farmers (Im from Maine, we have a lot of them) are VERY anal about making sure they are all in a line and spaced properly. Some of these trees are out of sync, as if pulled. Now, if thats true, and with the big blades, its very possible to pull the sapplings out of spot and still be "planted" as if never moved. I dont see the point of doing it on purpose for furniture since board bending has been done forever.

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  51. while touring in google earth-i found another forest (55°10'45.39" N 20°51'43.92" E) that has trees like this- lots of pictures of the various trees if you turn on the photos layer.
    the interesting thing is that there is a sort of museum in the forest with the trees -however-doesnt appear anyone posted pictures of the displays in it.this forest is also called the dancing forest.here is a link that sort of explains the forest- http://englishrussia.com/2010/05/20/dancing-forest/

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  52. Even though we human's feel the need to explain everything that may have a sense of mystery attached to it, which makes us an intelligent specie. I still hope and feel that some Mysteries will remain un-explanatory, as it would be a dull existence to live in 100 percent 'Logic'.
    What wold the 'Skeptic's' do??? And 'GOD' knows we need them!!

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  53. It seems that the general condenses here is that the trees were planted during the 1960’s and “magically” shaped themselves by some means into their current shape. I cannot see a craftsman creating this for making sleds or bent furniture because of the time involved to produce a viable medium, 10-15 years. The art of bending and grafting trees for espalier for fruit trees and such have been around for millennium as some have shown here. Looking at these pictures it is hard to really see what is going on. Are ALL of the trees shaped like this in the forest or just in certain areas? Some are indicating that the tree was completely severed at 45 degrees at the ground and replaced at 180 degrees from the cut, this was done why, throughout the entire forest????

    I am leaning towards the entry from Anon on Sept 2, 2011 concerning the Soviet tanks running through a young forest towards the end of the war. This alone would break or dramatically bend the young trees at ground level and a good chance they would recover over a period of 15-20 years. Looking at the base of the trees they are almost double the size at ground level than within the bend and reaching towards the sky. This theory would take the tree within the realm of the 1960’s. One question I have is has anyone checked the locals to see if anyone remembers this forest during the 1940’s, they would today be in their 80’s, they would have to have been in their early teens in order to remember what the area looked like during that time. Also the most obvious test to be done would be to get a ring sample to determine the age.

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  54. I take up the first explanation, that the trees were cutted down then grown and probably bent futher. One only one question remains, the question which is really interested to me. Who done it and Why.. oh, and Thank you for this nice posts..

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  55. natives would bend the tree downward early into the tree development to point towards water. when in a forest they would bend many trees in one area to ensure they would stand out when navigating through the forest to guide them to water & or home

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