witches’ broom

along rice creek, there are thickets of streamside willow, i believe it’s sandbar willow, with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of vertical saplings. one in every dozen trees or so ends in a fist of gnarled, chaotic growth. the growths are impossible to see in the leafy summer, and impossible to miss in winter. they are called witches’ brooms, from an earlier time when abnormalities in nature were assumed to have supernatural causes. certainly “witches’ broom” is more evocative than “a deformity in a woody plant caused by organisms like mites, nematodes, and phytoplasms.”

witches’ broom on willow

rice creek regional trial, saint paul, minnesota

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