How the Pussy Willow got its name

Spring gets nearer, and a symbol of the season is the Pussy Willow. Salix discolor is its botanical name, and its fuzzy buds that emerge in spring are excellent for floral arrangements or stunning in a bunch by themselves. You can leave a bunch of pussy willow branches in water and they will form roots. You can then transplant these cuttings into your garden, they will grow into a new shrubs and you can take cuttings off them for many more years. But why is it that the pussy willow…

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5# The legend of the noble evergreen trees

It is Christmas time: fresh Christmas trees are just about on every street corner, or waiting to be cut, taken home and dressed in holiday sparkle. But how did evergreen trees, whether pine, spruce or fir, become one of the symbol of Christmas? There are many legends surrounding the history of Christmas trees and what evergreen trees symbolize. The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans, for istance, used branches to decorate their homes during the winter solstice,…

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The Hardy Tree: the churchyard ash tree surrounded by hundreds of gravestones placed there by author Thomas Hardy

Inside an ancient churchyard in London an ash tree is encircled with hundreds of overlapping gravestones, placed there by classic novelist Thomas Hardy. The cemetery, alongside London’s St. Pancras Old Church, is considered by many to be one of England’s oldest places of Christian worship, and it is the site of a number of fascinating stories. For istance, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the future Mary Shelley planned their elopement there while visiting Mary’s mother’s grave. Restored in the first few years of the 21st century, the graveyard served…

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Bottle trees: a southern tradition with a spiritual past

For believers and ghost stories enthusiasts, the countryside of the American South is haunted and, given the history of the region, it is not hard to understand why. For istance, If you travel across the South from the Lowcountry of Charleston to the Mississippi Delta you will find many superstitions about the dead, and you will see firsthand some of the ways that locals protect their homes from the souls that apparently have not moved on from our world and have chosen instead to wander in the night and not…

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Meikleour Beech Hedge: the Guinness Record holder for largest hedge in the world is a verdant Scottish bulwark.

The Meikleour Beech Hedge, located near the village of Meikleour, in Scotland, measures 30 meters (98 feet) in height, making it the tallest hedge in the world. Planted in 1745, it now lies alongside the A93 Perth-Blairgowrie Road and can be viewed all year round. It is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the highest hedge in the world, and is most impressive to behold during Spring, when the young green leaves reflect the light, as well as in Fall, when the trees turn russet and gold. The…

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New Jersey Devil’s Tree: an allegedly cursed tree that represents a town’s reckoning with a racist past.

Drivers near the corner of Mountain Road and Emerald Valley Lane in Bernards Township, New Jersey, come upon a tree that rises from the brush that, at sunset, becomes a dark silhouette against the field that stretches just behind it. Known simply as the Devil’s Tree, the oak is believed to have disturbing powers, cursing anyone who harms or simply touches it. By all accounts, it is at least two hundred years old and, according to the locals, everyone in the vicinity of Bernards Township seems to have a story…

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Do not eat, touch, or inhale the air around the manchineel tree! You could die.

Throughout the coasts of the Caribbean, Central America, the northern edges of South America, but also in south Florida, there can be found a pleasant-looking beachy sort of tree, often laden with small greenish-yellow pretty fruits. You might be tempted to eat the inviting fruit. But no, do not eat the fruit! Or maybe you might want to rest your hand on the trunk, or touch a branch? Absolutely no, do not touch the tree trunk or any branches! But also…do not stand under or even near the tree for…

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The witches of Benevento and their walnut tree Sabbats

We are in Italy. When the Romans conquered the area in the 3rd century B.C. they changed its original name Maleventum (meaning “bad event”) into Beneventum (“good event”) but, name apart, it was a place of crossroads. The city stood in fact where the Appian Way forked and the Sabato and Calore rivers came together and, interestingly, crossroads (in italian “crocevia”) were the special domain of the goddess Trivia, protector of witches, with word Tri-via that means “three roads”. The legend of the witches of Benevento dates back to the…

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The fascinating story of Nocino, the witches’ liqueur.

Patron saints. Every Italian town has one and a local public holiday for celebrating their heavenly protector. In some italian regions, San Giovanni Battista or John the Baptist, is venerated with evening bonfires or fireworks and the night between 23 and 24 June, is also linked to the preparation of a culinary specialty handed down from ancient times: the harvesting of green walnuts to make the liqueur nocino. Many families still preserve the “secret family recipe” of nocino, a liqueur made from green walnuts, often enriched with those particular herbs…

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Holy Well of St. Madron – Cornwall

Cornish culture is legendary and mystery awaits around every corner in its land. Despite holy wells are water sources with specifically Christian associations, identified from as early as the 6th century AD, and the custom of venerating springs and wells as sacred sites have characterised pre-Christian religions in Britain, it is clear that some originated as earlier sacred sites. The cult of holy wells continued throughout the medieval period. Its condemnation at the time of the Reformation, around 1540, ended new foundations but local reverence and folklore customs at existing…

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“Old Man of the Lake”: the tree log that has been floating vertically for 120 years and no one knows why.

“Old Man of the Lake” is not a legend or a myth, but a real 450-year-old hemlock that’s been floating vertically in the Oregon’s Crater Lake for at least 120 years. The floating tree stump has been bobbing in the blue water of the deepest lake in the United States, and the ninth deepest in the world, baffling everybody, including scientists, with its upright orientation and allegedly even controlling the local weather. Its first account dates back to 1896, when geologist and explorer Joseph S. Diller described a splintered and…

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How to predict winter weather using a persimmon seed: a curious peasant legend

According to weather folklore, you can predict winter weather with a persimmon seed. The seeds of the persimmon, scientifically known as Diospyros kaki, are small grains of a few centimeters in length. If you find a locally-grown persimmon (a locally-grown persimmon is necessary because it will reflect local conditions!), all you have to do is cut open the seed and observe: inside the seed may appear the shape of a cutlery such as a fork, a knife or a spoon. According to peasant tradition, the presence of cutlery was a…

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The spectacular Neskowin Ghost Forest in Oregon

In the small coastal town of Neskowin in Tillamook County in Oregon, somewhere between Lincoln City and Pacific City lie the remains of an ancient forest, rising out of the sand and seawater. Dubbed the Neskowin Ghost Forest, they are an eerily beautiful memory of the towering Sitka spruce trees that stood here for some two millennia. For nearly 300 years the “phantom forest” strains remained hidden under the sand, resting until they were uncovered during the winter of 1997-1998, when the coast of Oregon was pummeled by powerful storms…

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Newman’s Nursery Ruins

Nestled in a valley on top of a hill there are the suggestive ruins of a 19th-century plant nursery. Founded by Carl and Margaretha Newman in 1854, Newman’s Nursery was once home to rare and exotic varieties of flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables, as well as the family’s 17 children. Yes, really 17! By the 1880s, the nursery had become a huge success and was considered a prime showpiece of the area: at its peak, it covered 500 acres, with 90 acres of fruit trees including 500,000 apples, cherries, and…

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Monterey Peninsula in California: Pebble Beach, ghost trees and the ghost of a Lady in Lace ~

Pebble Beach was the original name of the rocky cove located on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula in California. The owners of the near-by Hotel Del Monte purchased the cove and surrounding area and constructed a scenic drive throughout the property. The drive was 17-miles long (about 27 kilometers) with the Hotel being both the starting and finishing point for any excursion. Today, the Monterey Peninsula is home to eight public and private 18-hole golf courses. In the area, there are also haunting and beautiful trees, but doomed to die: the…

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Aokigahara: the Japanese Suicide Forest called “the perfect place to die”.

Aokigahara is known throughout the world as the “Suicide Forest”, and is a 35-square-kilometer spot located at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The forest, called “the perfect place to die,” contains a large number of icy rocky caverns, some of which are popular tourist destinations. Locals say they can easily spot the three types of visitors to the forest: trekkers interested in scenic vistas of Mount Fuji, the curious hoping for a glimpse of the macabre, and those souls who don’t plan on leaving! The thicket of…

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