Poland: Crooked Forest – a princess, an alien and an eccentric forester

Crooked Forest – probably the weirdest forest I’ve ever seen. One would ask, how can a forest be weird?

Well, it can.

In Nowe Czarnowo, a village in North-Western Poland you can find around 100 pine trees that bend just above ground level and curve back to their usual vertical direction in the form of spectacular arches. This is indeed an odd tourist attraction that doesn’t take much time to admire and most people come, see the trees, take a couple of funny or just basic landscape photos and go. Nevertheless, all the theories of WHY these pines grow like that will make you think about it much longer.


Let’s start with the most interesting ones, shall we?

The oldest inhabitants tell the fairy tale of a princess from Gryfino, the city nearby. One day, her child fell into a marsh. The guards saved it and as she got the beloved baby back, she cleaned off the mud with bread. Cleaning anything off with a holy food is never a good idea and it angered God so much that he sent hailstorms and thunders and destroyed the area. The rumour has it that ever since weird things have been going on in there… Trees taking odd shapes, things like that.

There are also supposedly some people believing in evil forest spirits, witches and nymphs. Others call the Crooked Forest an ultimate proof of alien life. These theories are all fabulous, I love them and would love to know more, however they seem to only exist in the introductions to articles that disqualify them as “unreal”. I beg to differ, you can’t say a story isn’t true without actually hearing it. What if the witches, aliens or any other of these creatures actually had a reason to bend 100 trees in North-Western Poland? That would be amazing!

Some guys that don’t believe in fairy-tales and want to sound smart say that this forest may be a result of fluctuations in gravitational forces or a general gravitational pull in this area. But could it? I’m no scientist, but it would have been an extremely unique gravity force that would pull objects sideways.


To give the story some historical background, the trees were planted around 1934, as this region was a part of Germany. Some smart people found out that they were probably cut at the age of around 7 – 10 years leaving out one of their branches that was growing to the North. Then, it took over the function of the trunk, continued growing horizontally and curved back up at some point. There’s also Eugeniusz Ćwilkiński, a botanist, that analysed the trees and said that there was no need to cut the trees; according to him, it was enough to just notch the trunk and bend it.

Ćwilkiński’s theory is the officially approved version, however there are still people defending the former one, like prof. Tobias Cremer. He believes that the trees were cut in order to sell them as Christmas trees. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this theory because why would the lumberjacks leave out always one branch (almost) always facing the North? Why would they leave out any branch at all?

The most possible explanation would be that whoever made these trees change their usual shape wanted to obtain naturally curved timber. Such material is perfect for building boats, sleighs, furniture, instruments or simply decorative items. Pine timber is, however, too weak for building boats and bent-wood furniture, so let’s cross these two out of our list. This theory is the most prominent one, but there’s also a problem with it – some researchers claim that this technique was used only till the 18th century, so long before the Crooked Forest was created.


According to yet another theory, the tanks that were stationing there during the war trampled the young trees around 1945. Then, the pines froze to the ground and came back to life in spring in a new, odd form. It’s only probable if the trees were planted in 1934 and later though, keeping in mind that their deformation happened as they were around 7 – 10 years old. Also, it would have been a straight line of crooked trees marking the way of the tanks and today it’s rather a round area surrounded by quite usual pines…

Some scientists talk about heavy snow that weighed down the young trees for months; this theory is quite similar to the tank one. The winters were actually really cold during the war with temperatures falling to -40°C and heavy snowfalls, but again – it wouldn’t be only 100 trees that suffered deformation.

There could also have been an eccentric forester that simply wanted to create something different; how mainstream are straight trees anyway? He could have had a whim one day to plant some trees and deform them, just like the Japanese Bonsai. An interesting and less well-known example of shaping trees is Axel Erlandson, a Swedish American farmer that created “The Tree Circus” in California in 1947. “The World’s Strangest Trees” (as advertised) included the “Basket Tree”, “Needle and Thread Tree”, “Telephone Booth Tree” and many others. Some of them were transplanted 40 years later to what is now known as Gilroy Gardens, a garden-themed family park in Gilroy; some of them died and are to be admired in the Museum of Art History in Santa Cruz today.

Some say that a German landscape engineer Arthur Wiechula might have had something to do with the Crooked Forest. He lived in Berlin which is not far away and dedicated himself to shaping trees that would be used as living house walls. However crazy this may sound, he even wrote books about the techniques that would allow him to do so with appealing titles like “Wachsende Häuser aus lebenden Bäumen entstehend” (“Developing Houses from Living Trees”) and “Wie baue ich mir selbst? Lebende Holzhäuser unter Mitwirkung der Natur – wasserdicht, billig und dauerhaft” (“Do it yourself: living wood houses with nature’s help – waterproof, cheap and durable“). There is no evidence he actually constructed any living house, but he inspired many artists that did. Maybe some fascinated forester wanted to create one in Nowe Czarnowo and then abandoned the forest when the war started?


As nobody knows for sure what happened, everybody can choose his or her favourite theory. That adds some mystery and charm to the place, doesn’t it? If you’re intrigued, don’t hesitate to visit the Crooked Forest someday – pines don’t get older than around 100 years old, so there’s only limited time left to see them.

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