11 Weird Trees in Art and Fiction (and Their Real-Life Equivalents)

 "Poems are made by fools like me. But only God can make a tree," said Joyce Kilmer once. 

We are nobody's fool though.

For while some trees do look divine and heavenly, others seem to have sprung from the underworld itself. In no particular order, what follows are some of the strangest trees to have come out of fiction and art.

(Note: Don't make this an excuse to cut trees though, as we need them more than ever.)


Via Reddit

"Sailor Moon" cleaved its second season into two arcs, the first being about twins that invade the earth in a skyscraping plant called the Makaiju. It really is the tree from outer space, and it wants energy, just not of the photosynthetic kind.

Obviously, the Makai Tree is not of Japan nor this earth. Something like the Juuban Odyssey apartment building, however, would not be out of place in the country. Literally covered in trees, the ACROS building in Fukuoka is one of the first examples of vertical gardens in modern architecture and design.  

Witch Queen's Tree

Zdzislaw Beksinski's "Tree" (left) and a still from the Vin Diesel vehicle "The Last Witch Hunter" (right) 

Our second entry comes from 2015's "The Last Witch Hunter." Its villain, the ecoterrorist known as the Witch Queen, reigns in a ginormous tree that takes a leaf out of artist Zdzislaw Beksinski's book. Art historians say Beksinski's works were informed by his childhood in Poland during World War II.

Grandmother Willow

While weeping willows are not out of place in Virginia, and near standing bodies of water across America for that matter, the state is more known for its black willows. 

In early sketches, the story of “Pocahontas” was supposed to be narrated from the point of view of a tree stump 300 years after the Virginia Company arrived.


J.R.R. Tolkien takes anthropomorphic to the next level with the Ents, his so-called Shepherds of Trees. While they're really good guys, it's understandable that their first appearance in "The Lord of the Rings" movies might give you a good jumpscare. 

Tolkien was inspired to create the Ents as a riposte to Shakespeare making “shabby use” of “the coming of 'Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane hill'” in "Macbeth." Birnam Wood is, of course, a forest near Dunsinane Hill, Scotland.

Angry Apple Trees

In one of Hollywood's most classic scenes, Dorothy narrowly escaped stoning by apples in "The Wizard of Oz." It is said that the yellow brick road where the apple trees stood was inspired by the road "Oz" author L. Frank Baum would take on the way to his boarding school, Peekskill Military Academy in New York. 

The Tree of Crows

Caspar David Friedrich is known for his sullen masterpieces, but this one is arguably the finest of the first order. Now immortalized in the Louvre, "The Tree of Crows" has planted a creative seed across generations of artists. A tumulus for the Huns on the Baltic sea near Rügen apparently inspired the German painter to create this magnum opus. 

Whomping Willow

Hogwarts is probably the most dangerous school on earth. More than a few memes have called the school out for its many violations, from sheltering gigantic snakes under the bathroom to admitting snakelike wizards for enrollment. 

Another case in point: There's a willow in the yard that would gleefully bludgeon any student. Although (transphobic) author J.K. Rowling used the colleges of Oxford University as the inspiration for Hogwarts, the model for the Whomping Willow was actually a 400-year-old beech on the Berkhamsted Common at the Ashridge Estate in the Chiltern Hills of England. 

Halloween Tree

Pumpkins, much less jack-o'-lanterns, don't grow on trees, but they sure do in Ray Bradbury's "The Halloween Tree." In this novel as well as the Hanna-Barbera adaptation, a jack-o'-lantern-bearing tree basically allows kids to astral-project. 

The story takes place in a “small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state.” An oak by the Golden Horseshoe Saloon at California's Magic Kingdom has been designated as The Halloween Tree IRL since 2007. 

The Toad's Grotto

Via Ben Proctor

There are many disturbing images in Guillermo del Toro's groundbreaking "Pan's Labyrinth," and one of it is the sight of a gigantic frog taking slimy residence beneath a tree. 

Del Toro got the idea of the giant frog from 1953's "The Maze," and a tree tunnel set was built in two days for it in the Guadarrama Mountains in Spain where the film was shot. Francisco Goya's "Black Paintings," housed in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, heavily influenced the aesthetics of the gothic horror-fairy-tale mashup.

Tree of the Dead

A trailblazer in art direction, Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" has a menacing set piece in the Tree of the Dead, the Headless Horseman's gateway to the plutonian depths. The tree was as frightening in real life as onscreen, rising "50 horrifically misshapen feet" into the air at a soundstage in Shepperton Studios near London. The setting of the plot is stateside though, in a forest by the Hudson River to be exact. 

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Satan on a tree—now what could be weirder than that?

The biblical Garden of Eden is said to have been inspired by an actual place in Iraq where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet. 


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