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How to Embarrass Trees

Surprisingly, these are un-photoshopped images of real trees:

Sculpted Tree 4

Sculpted Tree 3

In the 1920’s, a farmer in Hillmar CA began humilating some sycamores on his property. Axel Erlandson continued his mad arborist experiments for 40 years. 75 trees later, God nailed him for being a wise guy.

Sculpted Tree 2

Sculpted Tree 1

Erlandson’s “circus trees” were popular, and just like any decent circus, travelled around a bit before finally settling down for retirement at the Bonfante Gardens in Gilroy, California. More photos and history can be found here.

16 Responses to “How to Embarrass Trees”

  1. on 22 Feb 2007 at 10:14 pm epiph

    I happened to catch a whole documentary on this guy. After he died, his trees just overgrew for a couple of decades, until someone wanted to bulldoze them for a highway. Luckily, they found a home for them in a zoo. The documantary paraded the man’s daughter – now nearly 80 years old or so – in front of them in the garden.

  2. on 22 Feb 2007 at 11:24 pm Anita Bath

    What I find amazing is that many of the trees still survive almost 80 years after they were first created. Particularly since they were neglected in poorly nourished soil for many decades.

    My favorites are the basket tree (shown above) and the heart shaped tree (on the Bonfante Gardens site).

  3. on 23 Feb 2007 at 1:29 am saskboy

    That kind of shaping is much easier with squashes and custom molds. I’ve never thought of doing it with a tree before, that’s clever.

  4. on 23 Feb 2007 at 6:25 am Tisha

    hey girl!

    that’s incredible and shows how humans will always try to manipulate nature

    you mentioned being astounded by the fact they lasted 80 years, what is the lifespan of a tree anyway?

  5. on 23 Feb 2007 at 7:49 am Nessa

    These are amazing.

  6. on 23 Feb 2007 at 1:52 pm Diesel

    Hey, that’s near me! Aren’t I supposed to get some kind of notification when perverted trees move into my neighborhood?

  7. on 23 Feb 2007 at 2:10 pm Dark_blaze37

    These are great!

  8. on 24 Feb 2007 at 12:44 am rakhi

    these trees really r amazing…do u knw wat type of a tree they r? or like wat species? its so weird to think that these r actually living trees…..kindda cruel too…

  9. on 24 Feb 2007 at 12:51 am Anita Bath

    rakhi – most were Sycamores, but there are also some Ash trees still alive as well (maybe others).

  10. on 24 Feb 2007 at 3:13 am Bunk Strutts

    Tisha– The lifespan of a tree depends on it’s species. Fruit trees don’t live as long as others.

    The oldest living California giant redwoods clock in at about 200 years old.

    Believe it or not, some very slow growing species have survived for 1,000 (yep, that’s ONE THOUSAND) years or more.

    Rakhi– All trees have bark to heal wounds, and the wounds often leave scars. It’s not uncommon to find trees whose trunks have grown “through” wire fences or around other things.

    In the eastern U.S., there are still living trees that, as saplings, were bent over (and pinned with a rock) as trail markers a hundred or more years ago. I’ve seeen ’em. If I can find photos, I’ll ask Anita B. to post them.

  11. on 24 Feb 2007 at 3:24 am Bunk Strutts

    Rakhi– One other thing. It wasn’t “kinda cruel.”

    Had Axel Erlandson NOT done what he did, none of the trees would have been cared for so well for so long, and would have been cut down long ago.

    As far as I know, all the trees volunteered for the experiment and had signed waiver forms.


  12. on 24 Feb 2007 at 8:12 am CuriosityKiller

    Yeah. I’ve seen grafted trees like that. Freaks me out everytime.

  13. on 27 Feb 2007 at 4:26 am Janessa Vapors

    this s sooooo cool. so did the earth like bend n stuff 2 do this or what.

  14. on 01 Mar 2007 at 1:04 pm pooter

    Bunk–CA redwoods and sequoias can predate Christ. There are Jeffery pines that are 3000 years old.

  15. on 13 Mar 2007 at 4:58 am mod*mom

    what a coincidence to see the circus trees on your blog. i’m eagerly awaiting the reopening of bonfante gardens. my 3yr old calls it bonfarty gardens.

  16. on 29 Jul 2008 at 11:02 pm Brenna

    wow…. there is nothing else that would have probebly catch my interest then beautifuly shapped trees.

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