poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘Northern Flying Squirrel

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

%d bloggers like this: