The Crooked Forest - a natural monument or an anthropogenic creation?

The Crooked Forest is the most mysterious pine forest in the world. For years, it has been attracting and intriguing tourists from all over the world. It is considered one of the most interesting natural creations in Poland.

The Crooked Forest - a natural monument or an anthropogenic creation?

When in north-eastern Poland, it is worth visiting the magical forest, known as the crooked forest due to the unusual shape of the trunks of nearly hundred-year-old pines. Crooked forest (Krzywy Las) is located in Nowe Czarnowie, next to Gryfino. The forest is a nature monument with an area of 0.3 ha. Despite its small size, it consists of nearly 50 deformed pines (Pinus sylvestris L.).

The Crooked Forest location
The Crooked Forest is located in Nowe Czarnowie, next to Gryfino in the north-west Poland

Magic forest stimulates the imagination. Pine trunks bend northwards at an angle of 90 degrees. The curvature of some specimens reaches up to 3 meters in height. Such unnatural curves have resulted in many legends surrounding the creation of the Crooked Forest. There are theories about the effects of UFOs or the destruction of young plants by tanks during WWII. However, one of the most probable hypotheses of the creation of a magic forest is a deliberate human action. Their purpose was to bend trees, the tree of which was to be used to build barrels, boats and sleighs.

The Crooked Forest in Poland
Pine trunks are bent at an angle of 90 degrees

Crooked Forest is becoming more and more popular all over the world. And the number of tourists visiting it increases every year. However, it should be remembered that when visiting this unusual place, the rules governing the site should be followed. Destroying, damaging and even sitting down can destroy trees which are susceptible to dying faster due to bending.

The Gryfino Forest Inspectorate takes care of the Crooked Forest. In 2021, the Forest Inspectorate started creating the new Crooked Forest from 1000 pine trees. Some of the trees come from seeds collected in the Crooked Forest. Thanks to this, it will be possible to answer the question whether the curvature of the trunks is a natural, inherited feature or a deliberate action. We were told about this wonderful place by Mrs. Lidia Kamińska - a representative of the Gryfino Forest District, associated with the Crooked Forest from childhood and a promoter of this mysterious place.

The Crooked Forest in Poland

HortiAdvisor: Mrs. Lidia, please tell a few words about yourself. How did you become connected with the Crooked Forest?

Lidia Kmiecińska: I am a forester and employee of the Gryfino Forest District. The Crooked Forest is known to me not only due to the scope of responsibilities that I perform in the forest inspectorate, but also due to the fact that it is impossible not to know about this extraordinary corner being a inhabitant of Gryfino (and recently also the West Pomeranian Voivodeship, Poland and even a large part of the world). So I have been associated with the Crooked Forest "since always".

HA: Such a magical place is known all over the world, but it wasn't always like that. Who is behind the popularization of the Crooked Forest?

LK: This extraordinary forest corner owes its fame to itself. Thanks to its unique character, it has been visited by thousands of tourists for decades. In the past - information about it was provided orally by experienced hikers who visited the West Pomeranian region during tourist expeditions. Then the first mentions in the press appeared. Today, access to the Internet offers great opportunities to popularize the Crooked Forest. The news about him appears in countless posts on social media and news portals. More and more television programs are made. The Crooked Forest is the scene of numerous artistic projects, feature films, and video materials for recordings by famous artists.

Recently, thanks to the facility revitalization project that has already started, implemented by the State Forests, the Gryfino Commune and the PGE Foundation, this place is often heard in the context of our activities. As part of the project, we have already created a replacement area for the Crooked Forest, which I will talk about later, and activities related to tourist infrastructure will be implemented. The Crooked Forest - although small - is teeming with life. Still, his fame and popularity is determined simply by his phenomenon.

HA: There are many theories around the Crooked Forest. From deformations caused by UFOs, to damage caused by tanks, to deliberate human activity. Which theory of bent trees is the most likely?

LK: Despite many attempts to establish the history of the Crooked Forest and the emergence of strange curves of trunks, today we still use only hypotheses and guesses.

It is highly probable that the specific bends of the trunks were initiated by the hand of a man who achieved this unique shape through appropriate methods of forming them. The creators certainly wanted to use such unusual semi-finished products for the production of everyday objects. What kind? Today it is difficult to point out. Perhaps these were elements of furniture consisting of fancifully contoured arches. Or maybe such elements were used in the production of horned sleighs, popular in the nineteenth century, which, as one of the residents once suggested, was a small factory located in the local area.

The first observations that any observer can make are unidirectional curvatures of trunks. All trees are bent northwards at an angle of 90° and less between 10 and 55 cm from the ground. Then, the tree trunks form horizontally situated on the ground arched bends, reaching 1 to 3 m in length. Above the bends, the trunks are directed vertically upwards. The observations show that the deformations of the pine trees in question arose as a result of deliberate human activity. Young trees were notched from the south to the middle of the trunk and more, and were always bent to the ground with the tip facing north. With the further growth of the trees, the tops bent upwards and the curves that are currently observed arose.

E. Ćwikliński Krzywy Las pod Szczecinem, XXV Rocznik Dendrologiczny Sekcji Dendrologicznej Polskiego Towarzystwa Botanicznego, 1971

LK: Every visitor to the Crooked Forest cannot resist contemplating its origins. We have had the opportunity to listen to and sometimes also participate in family disputes and breaking heads over the formation of these unusual curves of trunks. Among the many voices, one could also hear those that see here the action of supernatural forces, cosmic powers or natural anomalies.

All this makes Crooked Forest inspirational, gives a lot of joy in joint deliberations and games with the most accurate hypotheses. It is a perfect place for family meetings and wandering among friends. This is an extraordinary story enchanted in the trunks of crooked pines.

HA: Is it possible to determine the age of pines growing in the Crooked Forest based on the height, thickness of the trunks or the number of concentric rings in the trees?

LK: The method of determining the age of a tree is to count the annual rings in the cross section of the trunk. The age of the growing tree can be determined using a specialized method of drilling the trunk with a special drill, which allows obtaining a sample with visible rings (which are counted).

Another way is to count the number of such growth rings per year from a felled tree stump. The annual ring is nothing more than the "set of stripes" visible on the trunk, which consists of a wider layer of early (light-colored) wood and a narrower dark (late) wood layer.

The age of the tree can also be determined statistically using appropriate tables. This method involves measuring the diameter of the tree's trunk, measured at a height of about 1.3 m, and reading the age of the tree from a table.

HA: Did the northward curve of the pines mattered?

LK: We do not have such knowledge and certainty. One thing is certain - the bends of the trunks were led in one direction in order to - either to facilitate the work of growing trees (if they were planted with wood in mind), or to give the place a unique character (if the Crooked Forest was to be a local tourist attraction).

HA: Before World War II, the area of ​​the Gryfino Forest District did not belong to Poland. Are there any historical references that would help to identify the history of this place?

LK: Unfortunately not. In addition to the aforementioned study by prof. Eugeniusz Ćwikliński we do not have any written records of this place. All the information we are working on collecting concerns the oral accounts of people who, for example, came to this area after World War II or visited this place in the years when the Crooked Forest has a slightly different character (more trees grew here).

It is worth mentioning here another interesting hypothesis related to the possibility of using the wood of crooked trees when they would reach the intended size. This hypothesis is related to the pre-war history of these lands. Well. During one of the meetings with foresters from Germany, a theory was formulated about the potential use of curved semi-finished products to construct wooden elements of barrel-shape horse-drawn wagons. Horse-drawn vehicles of this type could increase the amount of hay transported once from the mowing area of ​​Międzyodrze at that time.

Międzyodrze is a nearby area located between the two arms of the Odra River - the Eastern one (Regalica) and the Western Odra River. Before World War II and in the post-war years, this area, thanks to an incredibly well thought-out melioration system, was used as meadows for grazing cattle and collecting hay.

The Crooked Forest in Poland

HA: In the media, you can find different information on the area and number of pines. Can you confirm these details?

LK: Currently, according to the inventory and resolution Nr. XLII / 328/21 of the Gryfinie City Council of October 28, 2021 on the establishment of the "Crooked Forest" area nature monument, it has an area of ​​just over 0.50 ha. In its central part, there are 105 peculiarly deformed pines.

HA: Can the characteristic curvature of trees cause them to die faster in the future? Are pine trees more exposed to the damaging effects of wind because of this?

LK: For years, we have been observing a gradual "separation", that is, the dying off of curved pines. It is a natural and inevitable process. We have not observed any disturbing, systematic "natural" phenomena that may affect this state of affairs. There are tree fractures as a result of gusty winds (as in February this year, when the wind broke one of the pines). However, these are not repeated phenomena that may significantly affect the stand.

We have a huge request for all visitors to this place. Please do not sit down and do not go on the camber. The trees are protected as a natural monument. Each entry on crooked fragments of trunks causes "rubbing" of the bark and may weaken the attachment of trees to the ground - especially those of small sizes.

HA: Pine monocultures are an attractive feeding place for pests that often carry viruses, bacteria and fungi. Are the pines growing in the Crooked Forest exposed to them?

LK: Pine curves grow in the vicinity of coniferous stands, so the mass appearance of pests in them could have a negative impact on them. We have not had such a case so far, and the actions in the field of forest protection, which are taken in the forest district, allow the situation to be monitored and, in the event of a threat, to take appropriate steps.

HA: The oldest pine in Poland is 350 years old, will the pines in the Crooked Forest live to such a decent age?

LK: Who knows...

HA: Is it true that you have developed a technique for curving tree trunks? Could it have anything to do with the method that might have been used in the curve of the pines in the Crooked Forest?

LK: In order to implement the project of revitalizing the Crooked Forest, one of the elements of which is the creation of a new replacement area, a scientific methodology was developed.

This includes, among others, instructions to bend trunks in the shape of the existing ones. The author of the study, having specialist knowledge in the field of dendrology, on the basis of observations made in the Crooked Forest, in other locations where such trees occur in Poland and on the basis of his own experience, indicated the most likely method that could be used by the ancestors of "curvilets" near Gryfino and achieve similar bends. This method, consisting in bridging (i.e. removing the top of the tree) and leading the curvature from the strongest side shoot (with gradual reduction of the remaining ones) seems highly probable.

Of course, we also have other methods that we will use, but we will not reveal them, leaving them as a surprise.

The Crooked Forest in Poland

HA: In 2021, the New Crooked Forest project was launched. Are the plants planted on it children of the original Crooked Forest? Who is the initiator of the idea and how long will it take before New Crooked Forest is available to visitors?

LK: Foresters were the initiator of the idea of ​​creating the New Crooked Forest. For years, we have been wondering how to sustain this magical place on the tourist map of Poland for many years to come. The curves of the pine trees that make up today's natural monument are getting older. It's a natural process. As a result, trees begin to die. We will not stop nature. We can, however, give a second life to this world-famous curiosity by setting up replacement area.

The area on which the "New Crooked Forest" is being built has been divided into two sectors. In the first one, pines that were not genetically derived from trees currently growing in Crooked Forest. These are trees intended for later deformation, so their origin is not important. We will start the process of "bending" trunks in about 5-6 years. In the second sector, we will soon plant pines that will grow from seeds collected from the crooked mother trees of the Crooked Forest. We have successfully attempted to harvest seeds this year. The seeds were extracted from the cones and have already germinated in the nursery.

We are now waiting until they grow healthy to the required height, which will allow them to be planted in the sector. You can ask yourself what are the two sectors for and the way they are run so differently? The New Crooked Forest will give an unambiguous answer to the question - to whom do we owe the magical Crooked Forest. People or Mother Nature?

The replacement areas will be available to visitors in a few years, when the first deformations of the trunks have been made and the trees coming from the curves of pine trees will grow.

In the new forest, plants were used that were propagated from seeds collected from the Crooked Forest.
In the New Crooked Forest, plants were used that were propagated from seeds collected from the Crooked Forest.
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