poetry and prose about place

witch’s broom

with 8 comments

In the Balsalm Fir tree over our shed is a strange growth, like a dark mass of short deformed branches.  This dark mass of branches is known as a ‘witch’s broom’.

A witch’s broom is a common term for an abnormal growth caused by the action of an agent such as a mite, virus, insect, or fungus.  The agent causes a branch of the tree to grow from a single point, resulting in a mass of twigs and branches resembling a nest or broom.  Many kinds of plants can have a witch’s broom deformity, including many tree species.

Animals, including the Northern Flying Squirrel, use the witch’s broom as a nesting place.  The Northern Flying Squirrel is the big-eyed squirrel invading our feeders every night  (see ‘spacemen in our feeder’ under the category ‘competing for niche space’ for December 23, 2011).

Witch’s brooms occur frequently … we have at least three in our grey woods.  They lend an air of mystery to the woodland.  People used to believe a witch had flown over the place where a witch’s broom grew.

If anyone knows of another name for the witch’s broom, please let me know.  Years ago, we visited a small farm museum in northern Maine and an example of a huge witch’s broom was displayed in the shed, labelled ‘horrah’s nest’, but I have been unable to find this term used elsewhere.



wood witch


burdened by snow

a tree falls

tumbles a witch’s broom

the witch set free


a hex on the snowfall

slate where the dog walks

cuts her feet

soft rubies in every track


a hex on the room

cold as I left

now warm


too warm



© Jane Tims  2001


Written by jane tims

January 2, 2012 at 9:08 am

8 Responses

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  1. This is wonderful. You identified and resolved my mystery nest. Thanks so very much.
    You’re multi-talented. You write interesting articles, fun poetry and Your artwork is amazing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


    November 29, 2016 at 11:21 am

  2. Ah-ha! Found it. It was associated with the Torrey Pine. “Gorilla’s nest.” They also call it a witch’s broom.



    January 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    • A ‘Gorilla’s nest’… cool. Thanks for this. There may be other terms out there! Jane


      jane tims

      January 4, 2012 at 6:47 am

  3. I’ve heard another name for witch’s broom, but can’t recall it. I think it had something to do with the Torrey Pine, but I’m not sure. If I recall what it is, I’ll come back and let you know. I don’t remember hearing it called a witch’s broom (which is what makes me think there is another name).

    I like that the witch was set free, although I feel sorry for the dog and those burdened by the hex. The flying squirrel is cute. 🙂



    January 3, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    • Hi Robin. I would like to know the other name if you remember. Thanks for the comments on the poem. Jane


      jane tims

      January 4, 2012 at 6:46 am

  4. Oh my, I’ve seen a witch’s broom before but had no idea what it was or how it came to be. Thanks for the botany lesson today! The flying squirrel is adorable and the poem, wistful.


    Barbara Rodgers

    January 2, 2012 at 11:02 am

    • Hi Barbara. Thanks! Wistful is an interesting word to apply to the poem… it is a little tribute to our dog Dusty who is gone now… Jane


      jane tims

      January 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm

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