April 6, 2010

my REAL wall – The white tree mystery

There’s something that has puzzled me ever since I first visited Romania in 2005.

As you drive through the towns and countryside, meandering through sometimes painfully poor villages, all the tree trunks are painted white, uniformly to a metre up the trunk, where the paint just stops. All the trees are like this.

After observing this the first time by the roadside, I asked my host and she told me that the reason for painting the trees was to make up for the lack of roadside lighting in the night. Apparently the paint made the trees more visible, so reduced the number of crashes.

Fair enough, I thought and thought no more of it until I walked through an orchard. All the trees were painted for the first metre of the tree again, all the way through the orchard. Weird.

My host explained this away by saying that it was for the drunk people who tended to shortcut through fields on the way home when they stumbled back from the pub.

Now I started to smell a rat and decided to ask someone else. The can of worms was open and it seemed that the more people I asked the more weird answers I got.

“The trees are painted white to stop the ants climbing the tree trunks as it makes them visible to birds”

“The trees are painted every year to make them more pretty”

“The trees are painted to stop them being cut down and sold for wood on the black market”

“White paint contains an antiseptic that seeps into the trunk and protects the tree from infection”

and so on.

Elena goes with the explanation that the trees are more pretty and that it’s an old Romanian tradition she has grown up with all her life. As we drove through the Romanian countryside, she made sure to point out all the white trees and comment loudly about how much more beautiful white painted trees were than our plain English ones. I roundly disagreed and pointed out to her that this can’t possibly be a Romanian tradition as I have since seen white painted trees in Vietnam and Egypt.

The closest we ever got to finding out why trees were painted was in Egypt, where me and Stew actually saw a guy painting a tree trunk.

When we asked him what he was doing, it turned out that he didn’t speak a word of English, so the mystery remains.

Any ideas?

24 thoughts on “my REAL wall – The white tree mystery

  1. Haha! Latest just in from AAA, Elena's friend

    "it protects them for rabbits who eat the tree bark – i know cos my dad did not do it one year and the rabbits destroyed a few trees. don't think it's a concidence. 🙂 They obviously don't like the paint taste"

  2. Haha! Latest just in from AAA, Elena's friend

    "it protects them for rabbits who eat the tree bark – i know cos my dad did not do it one year and the rabbits destroyed a few trees. don't think it's a concidence. 🙂 They obviously don't like the paint taste"

  3. I believe it's an insecticide for crawling bugs (ants), and in some cases prevents sunburn to trees like walnut trees. I'm sure over time it has become a looks thing too, probably because someone saw their neighbor do it and didn't know why…. but they like the look and followed the trend 😉

  4. I don't just make this stuff up you know (even though it may sound like it). I've heard many more besides the ones mentioned and had many a discussion over a cup of tea with Stew about this. I would LOVE to know the real answer although I suspect that no-one really knows any more

  5. I'm afraid that even cleverbot doesn't know why trees in Romania are painted white MLuP. Do they paint them white over there in Malaysia? I know for sure they don't in Kuwait. Pakistan?

  6. I don't know. BUT in Malaysia they leave bridges made of rope, planks of wood and not much else way up high in the treetops so that you can walk along them and brag that you went canopy-walking. Walk, not jog. Otherwise you may plummet to your death. Which would be a little unpleasant.

  7. I don't know. BUT in Malaysia they leave bridges made of rope, planks of wood and not much else way up high in the treetops so that you can walk along them and brag that you went canopy-walking. Walk, not jog. Otherwise you may plummet to your death. Which would be a little unpleasant.

  8. That's a very good point Dade and I've thoroughly dishonoured myself for not having thought of it before! I have now gone to http://www.askaninja.com and submitted the question to the mighty shinobi himself as your inbox will testify.

    For those of you not privy to Dade's inbox here is what I sent…

    "Hi ninja

    I've been referred to your infinite martial wisdom by an old and trusted samurai warrior I know. I have searched far and wide, across the whole world in fact for the answer to this question, and recently I posed the question on my blog too but still I find no answer.

    The question is this…

    In some countries of the world that I've been to, the trunks of trees are painted white. Not totally painted mind you, but only painted to a height of about 1 metre, after which the trees return to their normal colour.

    I have seen this phenomenon in Romania, Egypt and Vietnam, however despite much investigation I have found little information. It's enough to make me want to don a balaclava and climb up a wall with hand spikes and a pocket full of shurikens.

    In my quest for arboreal knowledge I have had plenty of answers, some plausible, some not quite so, including

    "The trees are painted white to stop the ants climbing the tree trunks as it makes them visible to birds"
    "The trees are painted every year to make them more pretty"
    "The trees are painted to stop them being cut down and sold for wood on the black market"
    "White paint contains an antiseptic that seeps into the trunk and protects the tree from infection"
    Personally, I think that ninjas are involved here somewhere, but for the life of me I can't think why.

    Please use your infinite wisdom to enlighten me on this matter and I will be eternally grateful.

    Yours in hope
    Mr Andy T Geezer
    https://www.myrealwall.com"

    I realise now that perhaps I have been a little informal and I have no doubt that the ninja will kill me for letting my tongue loose in such a manner. In fact, from his (instant/non-hesitant/perfecty honed reflexed) email reply it is indeed clear that the ninja will kill me.

    Here's his reply (as I know that most of you aren't privy to my inbox either)

    "The Ninja will read your question carefully and then decide whether or
    not it's interesting and funny.

    If it is, he'll answer it and look forward to killing you soon.

    If it isn't, he'll still kill you, but he won't enjoy it.

    In the mean time, please go to http://askaninja.com and connect with
    your fellow ninjas and pirates.

    Thanks again!

    -Team Ask A Ninja"

    The REAL wall awaits the ninja's reply, while I wait in meifumado for cold steel in the back

  9. That's a very good point Dade and I've thoroughly dishonoured myself for not having thought of it before! I have now gone to http://www.askaninja.com and submitted the question to the mighty shinobi himself as your inbox will testify.

    For those of you not privy to Dade's inbox here is what I sent…

    "Hi ninja

    I've been referred to your infinite martial wisdom by an old and trusted samurai warrior I know. I have searched far and wide, across the whole world in fact for the answer to this question, and recently I posed the question on my blog too but still I find no answer.

    The question is this…

    In some countries of the world that I've been to, the trunks of trees are painted white. Not totally painted mind you, but only painted to a height of about 1 metre, after which the trees return to their normal colour.

    I have seen this phenomenon in Romania, Egypt and Vietnam, however despite much investigation I have found little information. It's enough to make me want to don a balaclava and climb up a wall with hand spikes and a pocket full of shurikens.

    In my quest for arboreal knowledge I have had plenty of answers, some plausible, some not quite so, including

    "The trees are painted white to stop the ants climbing the tree trunks as it makes them visible to birds"
    "The trees are painted every year to make them more pretty"
    "The trees are painted to stop them being cut down and sold for wood on the black market"
    "White paint contains an antiseptic that seeps into the trunk and protects the tree from infection"
    Personally, I think that ninjas are involved here somewhere, but for the life of me I can't think why.

    Please use your infinite wisdom to enlighten me on this matter and I will be eternally grateful.

    Yours in hope
    Mr Andy T Geezer
    https://www.myrealwall.com"

    I realise now that perhaps I have been a little informal and I have no doubt that the ninja will kill me for letting my tongue loose in such a manner. In fact, from his (instant/non-hesitant/perfecty honed reflexed) email reply it is indeed clear that the ninja will kill me.

    Here's his reply (as I know that most of you aren't privy to my inbox either)

    "The Ninja will read your question carefully and then decide whether or
    not it's interesting and funny.

    If it is, he'll answer it and look forward to killing you soon.

    If it isn't, he'll still kill you, but he won't enjoy it.

    In the mean time, please go to http://askaninja.com and connect with
    your fellow ninjas and pirates.

    Thanks again!

    -Team Ask A Ninja"

    The REAL wall awaits the ninja's reply, while I wait in meifumado for cold steel in the back

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