A strange tree was formed decades ago by a meticulous grafting technique. It is called the “Basket Tree.”
The photo made the Google Plus “What’s Hot” category on November 1, 2014 after it was posted by the popular Interesting Things page. The photo was labeled “Amazing Circus Tree” with no other explanation. Some readers suggested that the photo was fake, perhaps the work of a graphic artist using Photoshop.
Although the photo caption refers to the tree as “Circus Tree,” the name of this particular tree is “Basket Tree” which is part of a larger attraction known as “Tree Circus” or “Circus Trees.” This particular tree was created from six sycamore which were planted in a circle and slowly grafted together to form a weaved pattern. It was also known as “Circle Cage” and its original location was in Scotts Valley, California.
The man who created it was Axel Erlandson, who developed the unusual hobby of shaping trees from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. Erlandson created many unusual trees in the same manner, and many of these were featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not and LIFE magazine. His original collection of trees was named “Tree Circus” and included over 70 different trees.
After Erlandson’s death in 1964, ownership of his trees changed hands several times until they were eventually moved 50 miles to their current location in Gilroy, California in 1985. The Basket Tree is currently a centerpiece for Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park, which describes it as “the most intricate of the Circus Trees.” 25 of Erlandson’s trees are still alive today.
Some of Erlandson’s other famous works include the Almost Circle Cage, Double Hearts, Emblem, and Figure Y.
Below is a short YouTube video showing the basket tree back in 2010.
You can also view a virtual tour of the tree on Google Maps.
The image of a “Circus Tree” is real, and depicts the famous “Basket Tree” by Axel Erlandson.
Updated March 6, 2016
Originally published November 2014