Located on the coast of the Pacific Northwest is one of the strangest trees in the United States and has been described as a natural wonder. The Octopus Tree is one of the most unusual-shaped trees in the world and no one really knows how or why it got to be this way.

It is sometimes included among some of the most iconic landmarks of the Oregon coast and is one of the best roadside attractions to pop by to see while touring Oregon along the Coast Highway. Next time on a road trip to the Pacific Northwest, jot the Octopus Tree down in the itinerary.

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Size And Shape of The Octopus Tree

The Octopus Tree is a Sitka spruce tree in Tillamook County in Oregon and has long been a local attraction. It has grown to around 105 feet or 32 meters tall and lacks a primary trunk. The boughs of the Octopus Tree, lacking a central truck, extend horizontally as much as 30 feet before turning upward.

  • Height: 105 feet or 32 meters
  • Circumference: 46 feet or 14 meters

The tree is old - predating the state of Oregon (although not nearly as old as some of the redwoods that the region is known for). It is thought to be 250 to 300 years old and its circumference is around 46 feet or 14 meters.

  • Age: Between 250 and 300 Years Old
  • Location: Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

It is also known by other names including Candelabra Tree, Council Tree, and Monstrosity Tree.

Sitka Spruce Tree

The Octopus Tree is a Sitka spruce (scientifically known as Picea sitchensis). These are large coniferous trees that can grow some 330 feet or 100 meters tall. They are by far the largest species of spruce and are the fifth-largest conifer in the world.

  • Height: Sitka Spruces Can Grow To 330 Feet
  • Range: Alaska to Northernmost California

Larger conifers include the giant sequoia, coast redwood, kauri (massive trees in New Zealand's North Island), and western red cedar. They are also the third tallest conifer behind the coastal redwood and coast Douglas fir.

Sitka spruces derive their name from the community of Sitak in Alaska (where there are many of these trees). They range from Alaska into the northernmost parts of California.

Related: Where To Visit California's Stunning Coastal Redwoods, And What To Expect There

Explanation For The Octopus Tree

Recognizing the wonder of nature that it is, the Octopus Tree is designated a state heritage tree by the Oregon Travel Experience.

According to the Statesman Journal:

"historians say was used by local tribes for ceremonies and was trained into its distinctive octopus shape"

Exactly what forces are responsible for shaping this unique tree continues to be a matter of debate (normally Sitka Spruces grow straight). Some suggestions have included natural events and Native Americans.

While the Octopus Tree is the most famous, according to Atlas Obscura these oddly shaped trees are actually more common tho the coastal and mountain forests of the Pacific Northwest than many people realize (so keep one's eyes peeled for more mollusk-shaped trees in the region).

  • Explanation: Native Americans May Have Fashioned the Tree

According to Atlas Obscura, it was indeed the Native Americans and not natural conditions of extreme weather that produced the tree. They say the Native Americans trained the tree to grow into the cage-like assortment of thick vertical trunks.

"Such trees are common in the Pacific Northwest, and are known as culturally modified trees. Native Americans created the tree to hold canoes with corpses, in a practice known as “tree burial.” Culturally modified trees were also made to mark important places."

Atlas Obscura

Related: How You Can Visit The Giant Sequoias Of Yosemite National Park

Pando Aspen of Utah and The Humongous Fungus Of Oregon:

Pando Aka The Trembling Giant:

To see another unique tree in the United States is Pando - (previously thought to be the largest organism before being overtaken by Oregon's Humungous Fungus). Pando appears to visitors to be just another patch of aspen forest but is actually a clonal colony of an individual male quaking aspen - a single living organism. It is assumed to have one massive underground root system and to be among the oldest organisms in the world.

  • Individual Trees: Has Over 40,000 Individual Trees
  • Location: Fishlake National Forest in South Central Utah
  • Size: 108 Acres or 43.6 Hectares

The Humongous Fungus Of Oregon:

The humongous fungus in Oregon is a species of pathogenic fungus (mushroom) called Armillaria ostoyae.  It could be the largest living organism on the planet by volume, area, and mass - an impressive title. Still given how new these discoveries are, it is very possible that there are even larger ones around the world.

  • Area: 3.7 Square Miles or 2,400 Acres
  • Weight: As Much As 35,000 Tons (Blue Whales "Only" Weigh up to 150 Tons)
  • Age: Possibly As Old As 8,650 Years Old

Next: Guide to Sequoia National Park And General Sherman (The Largest Living Tree On Earth)