Collecting Tree Graffiti


Collecting Tree Graffiti

A side hobby that evolved off trail running was collecting tree graffiti. Tree graffiti has been around for a long  time. I’ve stopped to ponder some of the etchings. I wonder about the couples.

tree graffiti

Bill and Velda. 1989.

Were they high school students? Young newlyweds, camping and hiking through the woods on their honeymoon? Are they still together today?  Do they remember carving their initials on this tree?

Don and Sie apparently remembered their tree and came back in 2014 to add a new date.

In my rambling, I’ve noticed you find tree graffiti on popular trails and around camp sites.

aspen tree graffiti

Aspen Tree Colorado


tree graffiti

Marge and Scotty. Where are you now?  It’s been 28 years since you carved your date into this tree. Was this a special day?

I realize that carving words into trees is a destructive activity.  I don’t condone it, nor do I carve initials or pictures into living trees.  Gouges into trees can lead to breaches making the tree more susceptible to insects or disease.


Doing research, I discovered old tree carvings are called arborglyphs.   Beech, birch, and aspen seem to be the most popular medium for tree carvings.

Basque Carvings

Perhaps the most studied arborglyphs are the ones produced by Basque immigrants who left their native Pyrenees Mountains to work as shepherds throughout the western United States beginning in the mid-19th century. There are many examples of their art left on trees-which are now protected since they are over 50 years.

Basque tree graffiti art

Art in the Aspens

The Art in the Aspens is a great article on the Basque shepherds who used the Aspen tree to record their names, thoughts and fantasies on wood.

Beech, birch, and aspen trees only live 100 or 200 hundred years. All this recording is a fleeting moment in time. I wonder if Don and Sie have returned to their tree?

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