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The German Word For Crooked Wood

Here at the Chipps Tree Care Blog, sometimes we like to take a break from general pruning tips and talk about some of the more interesting topics in the world of tree growth. If you dig into our blog archives, you can find plenty of info regarding pruning and tree removal services in Edmonton and the surrounding area, but this week, we’re going to get a little abstract. This week on the blog, we’re going to take a look at a very cool alpine phenomenon that takes place in northern, mountainous, windswept landscapes (AKA Alberta); we’re going to talk about the little-known krummholz effect. Krummholz is a German word that translates literally to “crooked wood.” A krummholz tree is a tree that grows at a high altitude, often apart from other trees, and develops a crooked, windblown look as a defense mechanism to shield against ice damage and high winds.

The Intelligence of Evergreens

One of the coolest things about krummholz trees is the way they exemplify intelligence in nature and the hardcore survival instincts of coniferous trees. Black spruce, heartleaf birch and balsam fir are the species of trees that most often exemplify krummholz qualities. The apical buds that often dictate the direction of tree growth (up), are killed off (pruned) by the wind and ice, and as a result, the tree learns to keep its head down and grow sideways, rather than be decapitated by the wind. While a less hearty tree might simply surrender and die, krummholz trees, which often grow on cliffs, figuratively and literally live on the edge: their nutritional gains outweigh their losses by a razor-thin margin, allowing life to find a way even in the cruelest of places. If you are a hiker or a mountain-climber and you come across a krummholz tree, make sure to tip your cap to it, it has fought a difficult battle to survive. Granted, you won’t likely find a krummholz tree growing in your backyard unless you live on a mountain, but if your more traditional evergreens need tree pruning in West Edmonton or Spruce Grove, our ISA certified arborists can help!         

The Legendary Beauty of Crooked Wood

Krummholz is not only fascinating from a scientific perspective, it is also aesthetically beautiful. Krummholz trees are usually no taller than eight feet, giving them a sort of miniature bonsai kind of aesthetic. The way that the branches seem to have been shaped by the wind gives them a fluid look that is somewhat hypnotic. Over the years, visual artists have clued into this beauty, and the krummholz effect has been well documented in paintings, especially in the works of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. The reason that crooked wood lends itself so well to painting is that the artist can create an effect that makes the tree seem as though it is animated and blowing in the wind even when it’s still, as if nature is alive within the painting!

Here at Chipps, we like to encourage people to derive inspiration from trees, whether it’s their strength and resilience, or their natural beauty. Krummholz possesses both in large quantities. And while it’s good to appreciate the wild beauty of trees, it is also necessary to attend to more practical matters on your own property, so the next time you need stump grinding services in Edmonton, call us up and book an appointment!