There’s something peaceful about walking through the empty woods on a crisp autumn day. Depending on where you live this might be something easily accessible. Perhaps you live near the heart of a mystical wood like in stories by Hans Christian Anderson. Or maybe you have to drive a bit to get to that secluded little patch of forest where hunters seldom roam. Whatever the case, there’s something to be said about walking through the woods, without interruptions, and allowing yourself to take in all that nature has to offer. There are many people who feel more at ease when they have the chance to listen to the natural sounds in the forest.
Imagine the surprise many have when suddenly confronted with a giant, pure white tree. We’re not talking about a birch or something that is meant to be white. Imagine you’ve been sauntering through a fir forest and found a bright white tree. Think of those nouveau Christmas trees that are white right out of the box. Except this tree isn’t artificial or in a box: it’s right there where nature intended it to be.
Ghosts of Trees Past
A walk through California’s redwood forests is a thrilling adventure in itself, but once in a while, a lucky hiker may come across a ghostly phantom tree, almost an apparition. The ghostly albino tree is the height of a man and bears bone-white foliage.
What the visitor has come across is an albino redwood tree, one of only about 400 known to exist. The strange tree is unable to produce chlorophyll, and so its needles are white instead of green.
Because the albino redwood trees cannot produce sugar for energy, they are usually smaller than their giant green-needled relatives, and they don’t live as long as them, either. But the mystery of how these ghost trees are able to survive at all has perplexed naturalists since the first one was documented in 1866.
It’s interesting to note that Native American tribes knew about the ghost-like trees, and they have been recorded in tribal legends. California’s indigenous Pomo people called the albino tree the “spirit Tree.” and used it in their traditional cleansing ceremonies.
Biologist Zane Moore is a doctoral student at the University of California, Davis. The 22-year-old expert on albino redwoods became interested in them after hearing Dave Kuty, a docent at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz give a talk about the trees on the radio in 2010.
That interview set in motion a quest to find one of the ghost trees for himself, and eventually to pursue a study of the strange trees. When talking about the albino tree being able to exist, Moore says, “It shouldn’t be here. It should be dead, but it’s not. Just like a ghost.”
Fact or Fiction?
These trees are surely the things of legend and myth. Something that shouldn’t exist, but does. Certainly not something that a lot of people have in their yard, and DEFINITELY not a candidate for tree removal. There are many humans and various animals that also present as albino. You can tell them by their pale white skin, pale white hair and red eyes. Different cultures have different legends about these people but it’s very interesting when plants display the same behavior. We know that there is science to back up what we see. While we can’t always trust our eyes, science can confirm it for us. It might have been unnerving the first time someone saw such a seemingly unnatural tree. This white tree in the middle of such greenery.
If you go to the California redwood forests you will see these trees today. You have to look carefully as they are hard to spot. It’s almost like there are truly ghosts silently watching us from their safe-haven in the forest.