Question: What is a bottle tree?
Answer: Scientifically known as, Silica transparencii, it is one of the easiest trees to establish in a landscape. In its most basic form, a bottle tree can consist of a stick with a bottle on top. Of course, they can also be made of an old tree trunk with multiple branches where many bottles can be attached.
Hollow glass bottles were invented nearly 4,000 years ago. The invention of the bottle led to folks hearing sounds coming from the bottles when wind blew across a bottle top. Certainly this noise had to come from spirits living in the bottles. This highly scientific conclusion caused people to think glass could capture or repel bad spirits (somehow good spirits were not affected). It was common knowledge that roaming night spirits would be lured into and trapped in bottles placed around entrance ways. Morning light would destroy the trapped spirits.
Bottle trees were devised as efficient ways to capture and destroy bad spirits before they got into the house. While bottles of any color will work, blue bottles are thought to work the best. Blue has long been associated with ghosts, spirits, haints and superstition. Early American slaves used “haint blue” paint to keep ghosts from entering their homes. NC State researched the use of “Carolina blue” paint around the barn doors. Supposedly bulls would relieve themselves when they see this color. This keeps the bull feces from getting too deep in the barn. Turns out that a blue barn actually increases the amount of bull feces and attracts goats. Stick with red barns.
Early American slaves are probably responsible for bringing the bottle tree concept to the United States. By the 1700s, Europeans had evolved in their beliefs beyond the point of needing a stick. Europeans brought “witch” and “gazing” balls to our fledgling nation. Witch balls are hollow balls with an opening in the bottom to capture witches. Gazing balls were solid and used to repel witches.
If you plan on constructing a bottle tree, then hurry up. It’s getting harder to find real glass. I don’t think bottle trees work if they are made of plastic. Here's a tip. If you put a little oil on the bottle necks, the spirits will slip easily into the bottles and become trapped that much quicker.
For the most comprehensive info about bottle trees, visit http://www.felderrushing.net/HistoryofBottleTrees.htm For more info and cool pictures, visit http://www.squidoo.com/bottletrees If you don’t have access to the internet, then call me at 910-893-7530 or email me at email@example.com
Everybody blows out their birthday candles, crosses their fingers for good luck or looks for four leaf clovers. However, if bottle trees are a little too pagan for you, could I interest you in an Easter egg tree, Christmas tree or some mistletoe? Happy Halloween!
Gary Pierce, Horticulture Agent
Harnett County Cooperative Extension