The Great Octopus Tree On The Oregon Coast Is A Living Natural Wonder
Trees mean so much to people, it’s incredible. From Christmas trees to legendary trees in Mexico that are estimated to be 3,000 years old, they give us meaning and connection to nature and history. The octopus tree in Oregon is another example of a tree that means a whole lot to us humans.
This one, however, is quite different.
Oregon is famous for trees. The Pacific Northwest is basically symbolized by trees. So for just one tree to gain so much significance is saying a lot about that particular tree. This unique Sitka spruce has generated debate for literally hundreds of years, partly because no one knows just how it got to look the way it does.
How Did The Tree Come To Grow In This Way?
The appearance of the Octopus tree in Oregon has been a source of great debate for centuries. Some say that its six candelabra limbs come from exposure to the wind. Others say that the tree was intentionally shaped like an octopus by the aboriginal peoples who inhabited the area at the time.
Because it’s such an old tree, dating back between 250 – 300 years, it’s hard to say how it actually grew this way. There’s also talk about the Natives at the time intentionally shaping the tree like this so it could hold the canoes that carried their dead. It’s possible that the tree was grown using restraints for other ritual objects as well.
The Tree Has A Great Deal Of Cultural Significance
Because the Pacific Northwest octopus tree is so old and so unique looking, it’s garnered a lot of attention over the years. One thing for sure is that it dates far back to when aboriginal people inhabited the area.
The octopus tree is recognized as one of the several “Indian Ceremonial Trees”, so-called by Oregon Coast conservation activist Sam Boardman. He studied the trees and natural surroundings of the area, and posited that once the special tree was chosen, the branches were trained to go downwards when they were still young and able to bend easily. This is a theory as to why the branches extend around 16 feet from the base, and there’s no central trunk.
Once the tree had established this growth pattern, the restraint would have been removed. This allowed the branches to grow vertically. Over time, they’ve grown to more than 100 feet, which has created the incredible shape of this tree near Cape Meares Lighthouse.
Also known as the “Council Tree”, this beautiful specimen is believed to be a place of reverence. It’s where elders are thought to have made important decisions, and where important shamans performed ceremonies.
This is also part of the reason the octopus tree is known as one of the wonders of the world!
Natural Forces may Have Played A Role
While there are strong theories about the tree being ‘trained’ to grow in a certain way, it’s also possible that extreme weather conditions could have shaped the tree to grow this way.
This stunning Sitka spruce could have been exposed to weather conditions, and even surrounding plants and flora. The plants might have impinged its growth and caused it to grow in such an abnormal way.
However, the theory around the indigenous peoples training the tree seems more sound. It was common practice to alter the growth of the trees back then. This beautiful, old growth tree is not only an historic site, but also a botanical anomaly. Because of this, many tourists who visit the area go out of their way to visit the octopus tree, take pictures, and remember it forever.
How To Visit The Octopus Tree In Oregon
The entire coast of Oregon is open to anyone to visit, and this heritage site is no different. So the good news is: You can go and visit this breathtaking beauty for yourself!
To visit the octopus tree, you’re going to head to Cape Meares Lighthouse, which is an amazing attraction in itself. Plug this into your GPS, and you’re on your way!
Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint and National Wildlife Refuge is open 365 days a year from 7 am to dusk. Bonus: you can get all of this cultural significance for a song! They’ve kept it truly accessible, and currently there’s no charge for an entrance fee.