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When I see a bent tree- I am assuming that the growth can be attributed to the phototropism. The idea of phototropism was observed by Charles Darwin in 1880 through experiments that demonstrated the shoots (or branches/leaves) grew towards the strongest direction of sunlight. This process allows the leaves, undergoing photosynthesis, to optimize the daily amount of food (aka sunlight) received. However Dennis Downes points out that humans may be the reason for a similar growth pattern.

Downes has immersed himself into the world of bent trees, dedicating his life to provide us with a comprehensive history of the purpose and people responsible for this bent shape. His passion and contemporary translation of history make for a unique read that will inspire any tree or history buff. In his book, Downes explains how young saplings were bent to serve as trail markers for Native Americans. Adaptive Native American’s, fur traders, and pioneers depended on these trees as 'highway' mile markers. The abnormal shape of specific trees served as navigation aids to help direct travelers to important destinations- indicated safe trails, nearby water sources, or upcoming resources.

Throughout the book we can find colorful pictures, maps, and memorabilia that brings the reader back to a different era. The astounding beauty and vital contribution of these trees evoke a feeling of gratitude and awe.

As these trees have matured into sturdy forest members we may have forgotten (or never known) their original purpose. However, these hardwoods have maintained their crooked shape- providing a perfect resting place for travelers today. This book highlights trees from across the united states in over 19 states and a few in Canada.

Have you ever seen one of these historic trees? 

This impressive 30 year field study of these ‘culturally modified living landmarks’ continues to raise awareness to the cultural importance of historic trees. The artist’s book can be purchased here

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