Monday, April 3, 2017

Thong Trees

Seeing a tree like the one above always brings a comment "Oh, that was made by Indians to point to something."  Recently David Casaletto wrote a story in Ozark Water Watch about thong trees that piqued my curiosity.  Are they all created by Native Americans to point the way to water,  hunting grounds, camp sites, hideouts or even buried treasure?  Really?  "Follow this to find my buried treasure?"

Google "thong trees" and most links seem to be from the Ozarks.  Other names are popular elsewhere including Indian marker trees, trail trees, prayer trees etc.  The "thong" refers to the theory that saplings were bent over at 90 degrees, tethered to the ground stake with a thong.

Finding a thong tree is always exciting and there may be a few of them that were surviving examples of Native American markers.  They certainly have a wide network of passionate support for that theory.  However, there are many who would point out that Indians had an incredible knowledge of the land and water sources and extensive trails (such as the one we turned into I-44) and would have little need for establishing a marker to last for many decades.

All of the trees that I have seen here personally are less than 200 years old.  The Osage treaty of 1818 ceded their Missouri land and they moved to Kansas by the 1820s. The Delaware had been "given" their land for a short time but even Delaware Town and Swan Trading Post were deserted by 1831.  If the one above was created by the last man leaving the territory 180 years ago, it should have been pointing west where all the tribe was headed.

Young trees are frequently bent over by falling trees which subsequently rot and disappear into the soil.  Above is a young thong tree example and in spite of its youth, there is no evidence of what distorted it.  The tree on the right is much older, either a creation of an unknown event of nature years ago or  possibly a thong tree pointing to the North Star.

What happened here? - Mort Shurtz
It is easier to understand how nature may have created a thong tree compared to many other  dendrological oddities.  Consider Mort's photograph above.  I can't begin to explain the possibilities creating a double trunk like this.  A bent trunk will usually grow upward, phototropism's resistance to the pull of gravity.  Twisting trunks are harder to explain.  The thong tree below not only has the right angle but also has a 180 degree turn.  Perhaps is was to confuse anyone looking for the treasure.  Who knows?

1 comment:

  1. Convergent bonsai culture across continents?