A Bizarre Woodland
Near the town of Gryfino in western Poland, there exists strange woodland. Called the Crooked Forest for good reason, it consists of nearly 400 pine trees whose trunks have more than 90 degrees of curvature near their base. The reason is a mystery and though many theories have surfaced over the decades, including aliens and other conspiracy theories, no one actually knows why the trees are uniformly bent towards the north. Interestingly, the Crooked Forest is surrounded by a larger forest of pine trees, which grow straight. So why an inner part of the larger forest should have bent trees remains a matter of speculation. The trees were planted around 1930 and it is estimated that they were 7- to 10-year-old saplings when they experienced whatever force caused the curvature of their trunks. So what caused these pines to grow in the strange ‘J’ shape?
Under the Weight of Gravity & Snow
It was suggested that irregular gravitational forces or a unique pull of gravity could have caused the trees to grow curved. But this is one of the most implausible theories but there is zero evidence to support it, gravity pulls downwards, not sideways. A little more plausible explanation is that heavy snowfall could have flattened the saplings for an extended time. Then, a long spring thaw could have permanently shaped them like this with a thick layer of snow on top of the trunks as they experienced the spurt of growth. But the main reason this cannot be the case is because of the forest of straight trees surrounding the Crooked forest. It is extremely unlikely that a snowstorm could have only affected one part of the forest and not the whole.
Could World War II Have Bent the Trees?
A popular idea is that enemy tanks quashed the young forest during the invasion of Poland. The fierce advance could have flattened the trees to the extent that they eventually grew crooked. The dates do match up because the Crooked Forest is thought to be around 80 years old give or take a few. But the problem is that enemy trunks would have had to run through the outer forest of straight trees, so how come only these trees were affected? Further, there are serious doubts whether heavy tanks could cause enough structural damage for trees to grow curved, if the young pines survived the trauma at all.
Compass Timbers for Ships
The most likely reason for the curved growth of the trees and one that has the widest acceptance is also the simplest. The idea is that the ‘J’ shape is man-made. This would neatly explain the uniformity of the curvature throughout the Crooked Forest. It is well-known that local farmers did plant trees and manipulate their growth for ultimate use of the wood as construction material, either for furniture or ship-building. There is even a documented extract to support the theory with evidence. Some species of timber from northern Europe was prized for making long, straight planking, while other, naturally curved timbers were deemed best for strengthening ships internally. Trees were purposely bent in certain ways to obtain a set of curved timbers. These were known as ‘compass timbers’.
It is highly likely that the invasion of Poland interrupted the farmers’ activities, preventing them from harvesting the trees, leaving the Crooked Forest to grow in this peculiar fashion. The local town was so devastated by the invasion that it was not rehabilitated till the 1970s when a new power plant was constructed in the area. No wonder none of the locals have any inkling as to the real origins of the Crooked forest. Though the last explanation is the most probable cause of the curved pine trees, there can be no doubt that it resulted in a forest of natural beauty. It also gave the region a unique tourist attraction.