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The picture, above, isn’t of a tree.  It’s of six trees, grafted together to create the weaved formation seen.  It’s called the “Basket Tree”.

The tree, and others, were created by a man named Axel Erlandson, beginning in 1925.  Erlandson took up arborsculpting, or “tree shaping,” as a hobby, and learned to graft multiple trees together to create the shapes like the one pictured.  He was tight-lipped about his tricks, however, telling children that he created these natural freaks by talking to the trees; some say Erlandson fancied himself to be divinely inspired.

In 1945, twenty years after embarking on this hobby, Erlandson attempted to turn his hobby into a profit.  He opened the Tree Circus — a tree museum, of sorts — in Santa Cruz, and relocated his trees there.  Unfortunately, the tourist revenue from these living sculptures was a paltry sum; Erlandson barely exceed $300 in a good year.  He sold the Tree Circus in 1963 for $12,000 — roughly $85,000 in today’s dollars, counting for inflation — and passed away a year later, leaving 74 of his creations as his legacy.

Most of the trees died over the next fifty years, due to neglect or because of difficulty in their care.  Currently, the Basket Tree lives at Gilroy Gardens in Gilroy, California, along with eighteen other “circus trees” of various shapes and designs.   Want more?  Check out the Needle and Thread Tree or the Two-Leg Tree.

Bonus fact: There is another tree in California which by looks, is normal — but by age, is anything but.  It is over 4,000 years old.

From the Archives: The Old Man of the Lake: A 30 foot bobbing tree stump, and it’s been there since at least 1896.

Related: Want to create your own circus trees?  Here’s a book which explains how, to some degree at least.  Four stars on four reviews.

Originally published

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