Appalachia

Ever Seen A Bottle Tree?

Bottle Trees

Ever seen a bottle tree? Usually the bottles are stuck on the branches of the tree.

What are bottle trees

 

This one near my house-has bottles hung upside down on branches-and bottles hanging from wire too.

The history of bottle trees can be traced back centuries-back to the days when people believed evil spirits roamed the countryside during the dark night hours. The jist of the theory was-the evil spirits would get sucked into the bottles on the tree. Once morning arrived and the sun began to shine-the heat would kill the evil spirit stuck in the bottle.

Most folks who have bottle trees today are more interested in unique yard art than killing evil spirits. I’ve seen a few bottle trees around my area-but I think they are more common farther south. Have you seen any in your area?

To see some amazing bottle trees click here.

Tipper

Portions of this post were originially published here on the Blind Pig & the Acorn in October of 2009.

 

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34 Comments

  • Reply
    moonlake
    May 28, 2013 at 12:03 am

    I have a bottle tree in my yard and if it can catch evil spirits I’m fine with that. Enjoyed your website. Love the music.

  • Reply
    warren
    October 24, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I know my neighbor GrannySue has one and it is for the evil spirits for sure (she loves stories and Appalachian tradition). I haven’t seen others although I did see a store recently that was selling metal “trees” on which to place bottles…pretty cool!

  • Reply
    Jen
    October 23, 2012 at 8:59 am

    I have always wanted a bottle tree. They can be so stunning!

  • Reply
    Tipper
    October 23, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Tim-thank you for the great comments! Yes swept yards were common here too. Pap has told me about them : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    October 23, 2012 at 2:37 am

    tipper i loved the story last time.. and now again.. its sort of whimsy and makes one feel secure that good thoughts can make the bad stuff go away.. i wish we had blue bottles around here.. as i would love to do a tree with those.. thanks as always for giving us something interesting to ponder on 🙂
    big ladybug hugs and hope you are enjoying the fall weather and the beautiful leaves… i sure am.. .my favorite time of year
    xoox
    lynn

  • Reply
    Theresa
    October 22, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    The bottle trees I’ve seen around here people put the bottles onto the ends of the branches of a dead tree to decorate it like there is one that is really pretty has all cobalt colored bottles on it and another one I saw that had all one shade of green bottles.

  • Reply
    Glynda
    October 22, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    I like bottle trees, I’ve seen some really nice ones and some that were just plain ugly. I
    actually saw a really pretty one
    in Saluda on Sat. at an arts and
    craft festival,it was a free
    standing iron piece with colored
    wine bottles, it was really nice
    but I was actually afraid to even
    look at the price. Thanks for doing this post, interesting.

  • Reply
    LINDA L. KERLIN
    October 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Although it is late in the day and I am not sure anyone writes a comment this late—but I have heard of bottle trees and I have 2 on my property one has only blue bottles and the other has different colors and shapes and yes indeed they are to catch evil spirits!!!

  • Reply
    Quinn
    October 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I’ve never seen a bottle tree that I recall, but I’ve heard of them down in Louisiana.
    Sure wish I had some of Vanessa’s “Volcanic Linament”…sounds like just about the right strength for my backache.

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    October 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Bottle trees to bottle up evil spirits! Just like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp. Wonderful bit of country lore. The Blind Pig strikes again — into my book it goes.

  • Reply
    Tim Hassell
    October 22, 2012 at 11:42 am

    As I was picturing in my mind the bottle tree I just posted about, I remembered that it was in a “swept yard” maybe that’s why it seemed so colorful. Swept yards a certainly a thing of the past around here, were they ever common in your area?

  • Reply
    Tim Hassell
    October 22, 2012 at 11:36 am

    I’ve seen them all my life, not in every yard of course but pretty often. You have to run the back roads to see them any more but there are still some out there. I remember one in particular from my childhood, it was in the front yard of an old log home that had a dog-trot hall through it. As a little kid I thought it looked as pretty as any Christmas tree I’d ever seen, the bottles were all different sizes and colors.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    October 22, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Tipper,
    and Ed…I do believe Ed when he says he seen bottles in branches..Up around Cosby hollers there would be some of those fancy squar bottles warshed down the mountain sides into them branches…or put thar on purpose…
    Now about them limbs, most folks are familiar with Hickory limbs rather than Willer branches in some nech of the woods..I think them purty squar bottles that’s blue n green would be looking good on a tree…But like Rush said I wouldn’t be sniffin out no evil spirit, hit mite cause you to fall-up in the “evil spirit branch”….plus them little moss like covered crawdads livin’ there could pinch your sniffer…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    October 22, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Tipper,
    Roy got my post in for my bottle tree last week…Now we have found the best Cedar tree and have decided to take out the post and put the cedar tree in…The branches are just purfect around the tree for placing the bottles…The other way we were going have to put in larger dowells to hold the bottles….In the meantime I have a few hung around the studio cabin….I have been collecting cobalt blue bottles for a long time…but I just can’t make myself put some of them on the tree..like the old selzer bottles, magnisia bottles, etc..I had thougt of coloring some wine bottles. We get these at the dump refuge building. So many people ask for the bottles that they will take them if you bring them separate in boxes..
    There are a lot of clear ones, and I thouht about coloring them, with that glue/paint/bake method…Back to the question, yes, I have seen some fine bottle trees around…My favorite is a beautiful cobalt blue one in Cumberland County…careful you might just drive by…That’s my favorite thing scouring the sideroads of the mountains for pleasures for the eyes…
    Thanks Tipper, I will send you a picture when we uproot the post and place in our stripped cedar with decor….

  • Reply
    Tipper
    October 22, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Janice-I dont have a photo-but hopefully someone else does : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Janice Dean
    October 22, 2012 at 10:20 am

    I WANT A PICTURE OF A ROLLING STORE. DOES ANYONE HAVE ONE YOU WILL SEND ME.

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    October 22, 2012 at 10:17 am

    I have one in my yard and I love it. Just got it this spring, but I have been collecting blue bottles for years. The bottles have to be blue to work! 🙂

  • Reply
    Shirla
    October 22, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I have never heard of a bottle tree. I do recall seeing bottles and jars placed upside down on fences. I thought that was just to keep water from soaking into the wood, kind of like a roof. Where I come from, they used to hang a horseshoe upside down over the front door to keep evil spirits out.

  • Reply
    bakingbarb
    October 22, 2012 at 9:24 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen one except online. I’ve wanted to do one but haven’t done so yet. I knew they were to keep evil spirits away but wasn’t sure exactly how, now I know!

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    October 22, 2012 at 9:07 am

    I have seen bottle trees, but not as unique as those shown here hanging using wire and real trees. The ones I have seen are made with using a metal pole similar to hooks to hang bird feeders on except there are various straight pieces jutting out all over it to place a bottle in place. I like using a real tree. Thanks for the spirit information; I did not know the reason for a bottle tree. Lets hope the evil spirits go by the wayside and have a happy day!

  • Reply
    Vanessa Elhenicky
    October 22, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I’ve yet to see one though I do like to get my hands on an old bottle. Since I usually don’t find colored glass I fill them w/ water & add some food coloring before adding to my windowsill. Grandma always did that & called it her “hillbilly stained glass”, though I hail from an Ozarkian hillbilly ancestry rather than appalachian, lol. My favorite is filled w/ orange water & says McCleans Volcanic Liniment.

  • Reply
    Rush
    October 22, 2012 at 8:49 am

    A friend of mine in South Alabama has very beautiful bottle trees. Hers are made from entirely one color each, blue bottles or ruby or amber or green. FYI Some old and sage advise I heard once for all of you bottle collectors . . . never sniff an old bottle to see if you can tell what was in it, because you can become spiritually polluted right up the old schnoz.

  • Reply
    Alica
    October 22, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I’ve never seen one of these…although we frequently drive by a “tree” made out of those big old glass insulators that came off of electric poles. I wonder if there’s a story behind that one, or if it’s just their choice in yard art?

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    October 22, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Yes, I’ve heard of them and seen them. I did one a little different at my house. I got dowel rods, cut them different lengths and stuck them in the ground at different angles at the edge of my front porch. I slid blue and clear bottles down on the rods. They make a pretty decoration.

  • Reply
    Belva
    October 22, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Yes, Tipper, I have seen a bottle tree. I have also seen a bottle fence at an old houseplace that had a weathered old picket fence around it. There were bottles of all different colors turned upside down on top of each of the pickets. The school bus used to pass by this place everyday. When the sun was shining on the bottles and reflecting the light it made me think of a magical kingdom with a fence made of gems and jewels. I used to hope that I would catch a glance of the fairy princess that I knew must live there. Thank you for reminding me of this memory from my childhood. Unfortunately after I had grown up, someone bought the old house place and the house and the magical bottle fence were all torn down to be replaced with a modern brick home that didn’t have any fence.

  • Reply
    Carrie
    October 22, 2012 at 8:28 am

    My SIL and MIL have both embraced them. Of course, they are not the kind that I have seen/want and of course, my husband says, ARE YOU CRAZY. That’s inviting our 3 boys to take shots at them. But one day, he’ll come home and I will have done it on my own. 🙂
    I actually took pictures recently. I’ll post them this week on the blog and let you know so you can see their’s.
    (used to be blueridgemountainmama.com and now lifeimperfectly.com) 🙂

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    October 22, 2012 at 8:27 am

    I’ve seen a few around here. Thought the idea of the evil spirits was interesting, sort of like the garden gazing balls.

  • Reply
    Connie Cochran
    October 22, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I got my bottle tree in Inverness, Florida at Cubby’s. He includes a printed history of the “Origin of the Bottle Tree”. The first time I ever heard of this idea was the display by Felder at Disney World – Epcot. We really enjoy reading this blog, so glad I found you
    Connie Cochran – Polk City, Florida

  • Reply
    Ron Perry, Sr.
    October 22, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Like Sheryl, I have seen a few but never heard about the spirits.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    October 22, 2012 at 7:48 am

    I know folks who have them and would like to make one myself. The bottles are usually placed upside down on the branches…. to catch evil spirits… perfect for this time of year!

  • Reply
    kat
    October 22, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Only saw one my aunt had in her yard. Didn’t know about the spirit thing, but did love the color when the sun shined on it.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 22, 2012 at 7:32 am

    I don’t think we can have bottle trees around here because none of our trees have branches. Ours all have limbs. We do have branches but they on the ground and have water running in them. I have seen branches that people have dumped old bottles into. Does that count?
    Reckon those evil spirits have stopped roaming just because people stopped believing?

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    October 22, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Never heard that one here in northern Kentucky / Southern Ohio. Born and raised in the sticks of No. KY. been in So. Ohio 34 plus years.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 22, 2012 at 6:48 am

    I’ve seen a few, from when I was a kid til now. Never knew about the spirits though. My family used wind-chimes hanging from trees.

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