The Octopus Tree of Oregon

Oct 22, 2013 0 comments

The Octopus Tree is a massive Sitka spruce located a few hundred feet from Cape Meares Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, in the U.S. The tree is shaped like an inverted octopus with branches growing like giant tentacles from its 50-foot base. The tree has no central trunk. Instead, six candelabra limbs extend horizontally from the base as much as 16 feet before turning upward. The tree’s unusual shape, according to local historians and Tillamook tribal descendants, comes from the ravages of the wind, but it could also have been man-made.

The Octopus tree is believed to be two hundred to three hundred years old dating back to when the Indians lived in the area. In fact, one theory says that the Octopus Tree was shaped like an octopus by the Indians to hold their canoes with their dead in it, and other ritual objects.


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In earlier days, Oregon Coast activist Sam Boardman recognized the tree as one of several "Indian Ceremonial Trees" trained over time, a common practice of the Coast tribes. The Octopus Tree was specially venerated, probably serving as the gathering site for important Tillamook tribal rites.

Once the tree was chosen, the branches were forced downward toward a horizontal position when they were still flexible, allowing them to extend about 16 feet from the base. The restrain was then removed and the branch was allowed to grow vertically. Each branch reached skyward to more than 100 feet, creating the distinctive shape.

Once featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the tree has been described as one of the modern Wonders of the World. Over the years, this curious spruce has also borne the name “Monstrosity Tree” and “Candelabra Tree”, for obvious reasons. But it is persistently called the Council Tree, a place of reverence where elders once made decisions and where shamans performed ceremonies. Today the Octopus Tree is not only a historic site, but also a botanical wonder, the kind of tree that prompts tourists to make a sightseeing detour.

A sign near the tree reads:  "The forces that shaped this unique Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) have been debated for many years. Whether natural events or possibly Native Americans were the cause remains a mystery. The tree measures more than 46 feet in circumference and has no central trunk. Instead, limbs extend horizontally from the base as much as 16 feet before turning upward. It is 105 feet tall and is estimated to be 250 to 300 years old."

Also see: The Crooked Forest of Gryfino, Poland


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Source: CapeMearesLighthouse, TheOregonCoast


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