Twisted Trees – Speers, Saskatchewan - Atlas Obscura

Twisted Trees

Speers, Saskatchewan

The Twisted Trees of Alticane are an unnerving grove of Quaking Aspen, apparently mutated from a single source, giving them a twisted and unnatural appearance. 


The trees tremble. In a grove of Aspens, the slightest breeze, or sometimes none at all, sets the thousands of tiny leaves overhead shaking and fluttering, at once in unison but each one different. It’s this phenomenon, caused by the delicate nature of Aspen leaves and their connection to its branches, that gives this particular genus of tree its many nicknames. Trembling Aspen. Quaking Aspen. Quaking Poplars.

But in fact, that trembling is the least unusual – and the least eery – aspect of this particular grove of Quaking Aspens in Alticane, Saskatchewan. Known as Twisted Trees, among other local nicknames, these Aspens have grown for hundreds of years in a totally unexpected manner, with squat, twisted trunks and branches rather than the tall, straight appearance Aspens are known for.

Standing in the midst of these unsettling trees, dense and gnarled into unnatural shapes and sizes, in the wrong kind of light will unnerve even the most open-minded nature lover. One crack of thunder and the grove seems to turn into the set of a horror film.

Perhaps most unusual, Twisted Trees is an Aspen grove flanked by other groves of Quaking Aspen, all of which are “normal” – tall, straight, and majestic. The contrast has fascinated local residents for centuries, resulting in numerous legends and folklore about the grove. Curses, evil water, and even radiation are all suggested reasons for this one particular section of Aspen being mangled from birth.

The root cause of the Quaking Aspen in Twisted Trees is actually more simple. Quaking Aspen grow in vast groves consisting of what appear to be individual trees, but which are actually “clones” of an original source. In short, each “different” tree is the same tree as the others, genetically speaking.

And while the source of the trees’ twisted nature has been explained by botanists, the root cause of the apparent genetic mutation is still a mystery, as is its robustness over time and distance. The mutated forms are apparently not strange enough to cause actual problems for the trees’ growth and development, but of course more than strange enough to creep out anyone who happens to find themselves in the midst of these Twisted Trees.

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July 18, 2012

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