There is an ancient Tao fable by the philosopher Zhuangzi about The Useless Tree.

The Useless Tree was old and imperfect, with twisted limbs and crooked branches. The other trees made fun of The Useless Tree because it was old and rough, and the knotty wood made it profitless as lumber.

But Zhuangzi saw merit in The Useless Tree. Appreciate the tree for what it is, he said, and not for what it could be. You can rest in the shade of its branches and admire its unique character.

I love the trees. I love the variety of trees—their flowers, the different leaf shapes, their bark texture, the changing colors throughout the year, and full canopies of leaves that provide glorious shade. Beyond their appearance, trees can increase property values and reduce a home cooling bill by up to 50%. Environmentally speaking, trees are potent detoxifying agents, cleaning the air, and positively affect the physical and emotional well-being of humans.

And I love large, gnarly trees with twisted trunks that loom majestically in a forest or open field. Here are just a few of my favorites.

This Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera) in Busey Woods, Urbana, Illinois, towers over its neighboring trees. The massive trunk is deeply furrowed and channeled, and the bark is a rich shade of dark brown. Beneath the bark is a highly durable wood that is a beautiful yellow-orange color,
This Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica purpurea), located at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, is an ornamental cultivar of the European Beech. The bark is relatively smooth, with many undulating whitish-grey wrinkles. The leaves are purple and turn a bright shade of orange in the fall.
White Mulberry Tree (Morus alba), located at the Brown County State Park Nature Center, Nashville, Indiana. The Rangers at the park helped ID this craggy monster with the split trunk as the non-native species of the two Mulberries found in Indiana. They adequately described the tree as “big and broken,” but it also has a shape that gives it a wealth of character.
The Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is on the threatened species tour at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. It is related to the Bald Cypress. and both are deciduous conifers with delicate, feathery, needlelike leaves. The trunk on this Dawn Redwood has a broad and dramatic buttress, with dark brown folds of twisted roots.

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