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The Crooked Trees of Hafford

Approximately twenty kilometers northwest of the town of Hafford, in Saskatchewan, Canada, and just over five kilometers south-west of Alticane, is a grove of trembling aspens with dramatically twisted trunks and branches as if somebody took them by both hands and wrangled them into knots. The Crooked Trees has been a local attraction since at least the 1940s. According to Rick Simmonds, who owns the property upon which the crooked cluster of trees sit, the site is visited by five thousand visitors each year.

crooked aspen trees near hafford

A grove of gnarled aspen trees near Hafford, Saskatchewan, Canada. Photo credit: Hihatimages/Shutterstock.com

The trees’ gnarled appearance has given way to a number of theories about how it came to be. Some say there is something in the soil, some contaminants that came when a meteorite crashed into the area. Some say it was a lightning strike.

“The previous owner talked about how his cattle would not come in these trees. There’s talk of aliens,” Simmonds told Globalnews with a chuckle.


Related: Crooked, Drunken And Dancing Forests


When samples of these trees were taken and grown elsewhere, they were found to exhibit the same pattern of twisted growth, suggesting that the cause is rooted in genetics, possibly the result of a mutation which causes the tree to grow downward instead of upward. The gene responsible for this behavior is actually very lethal to the tree, explains Rick Sawatzky, a technician working in the horticulture department at the University of Saskatchewan.

If these trees were to compete for sunlight with healthy aspens, they would surely die because the other aspens would block the sunlight. Sawatzky believes they have been able to survive for so long because they simply have never faced that degree of competition.

Some years ago, the local tourism board, along with help from the community, built a wooden walkway to keep visitors from trampling any new growth.

“We just hope that people realize it’s an area to preserve and there isn’t another bush like this,” says Hafford Mayor Ron Kowalchuk.

crooked aspen trees near hafford

Photo credit: Jen Kim/Flickr

crooked aspen trees near hafford

Photo credit: bwideen/Flickr

crooked aspen trees near hafford

Photo credit: daryl_mitchell/Flickr

crooked aspen trees near hafford

Photo credit: Jason Yoder/Shutterstock.com

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