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Poland's Krzywy: The Mysteries of the Crooked trees

In Poland, there is a forest with 400 crooked trees that have a 90-degree bend at the base of their trunks. Despite of numerous possibilities, the real reason and how it evolved remain a mystery.

Although trees can be any size and shape, most species grow in the similar ways as they strive for the sun. However, a collection of roughly 80 pine trees in Poland’s Krzywy Las, or Crooked Forest, defies all expectations by growing sideways at the base, giving rise to a variety of imaginative hypotheses about their origin, including gravity fluctuations, Nazis, and even aliens.

As with any excellent mystery novel, the plot begins with a murky backstory. The trees were probably planted in the early 1930s, and according to specialists, the deformation happened while the plants were just 5-7 years old. The area was once a part of Germany, but history would soon cast a shadow over the details.

Polands Krzywy The Mysteries of the Crooked trees 1
Photo Credit: Wikipedia Common

Theories about the origin of the crooked trees

Many people and tales were lost as conflict erupted throughout Europe, including the beginning of the Crooked Forest. One historical interpretation holds that the young trees were bent 90 degrees as a Nazi tank rolled over them. Although the vast majority of the trees are bent in the same direction (North), this makes visual sense, but loses force when viewed in the context of the entire forest.

There is no route a tank could have taken to harm just that small patch of saplings because the bent trees are surrounded by hundreds of normal trees. Furthermore, it’s more possible that the trees wouldn’t survive the event if they were so drastically twisted by the treads. However, it is impossible to rule out the possibility.

Other hypotheses are more original. A “gravitational fluctuation,” like the Oregon Vortex in the United States, is one such theory. Even if it’s a fascinating supernatural explanation, these kinds of phenomena are only optical illusions and cannot be explained by science.

One of the craziest hypotheses is that the trees were felled by an extraterrestrial spacecraft, much like crop circles. It’s doubtful that the notion is true because crop circles themselves have been disproven for a very long time. It’s best to let the History Channel’s “documentaries” to explain things like Nazi magnetic fields and extraterrestrial life.

Polands Krzywy The Mysteries of the Crooked trees 2
The trees are mostly bent toward the North – photo credit Rzuwig

What probably happened in Poland’s Crooked Forest

The most likely explanation is that the trees were purposefully altered to produce a naturally curved material for furniture or structures. Although the process takes years to pay off, it has been recorded for hundreds of years.

For use as “compass timber,” or the curved parts of a boat’s hull, early English shipbuilders prized English oak. These parts could be created by joining several straight pieces together or, in the case of smaller boats, by steam-bending wood into any shape, but naturally shaped wood is much more durable. By the end of the 17th century, many of England’s numerous hedges’ oak trees had been cut down for this purpose.

In light of the era, the theory also makes sense. The Art Nouveau movement, or Jugendstil in German, was popular up until the 1930s; its curved and organic shapes may have served as an inspiration for the trees in the Crooked Forest. The original curator might have escaped or passed away because the nearby village was destroyed by the war and wouldn’t recover until the 1970s. Another, less dismal theory is that the trees were simply removed when styles in the late 1930s and later began to lean more toward the modernist and Bauhaus style’s straight lines.

Polands Krzywy The Mysteries of the Crooked trees 3
The Person Tree by tree shaping artists from Pooktre

Since ancient times, tree shaping has been practiced as an art form. Examples of this can be found in topiaries, Japanese Bonsai cultivation, and other cultures all over the world. Recently, an Australian couple developed the “Pooktre” approach, which has produced some impressive outcomes.

No one really knows what happened to the trees in Krzywy Las, despite the fact that this is the most likely explanation. It’s unlikely at this point that the true cause will ever be discovered, but fortunately the trees are still there to capture the attention of visitors for years to come.

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