Money grows on trees in England

Coin Embedded tree from Ingleton Waterfalls Walk, United Kingdom
Image credit: Wikipedia

You’ve heard the old adage, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Well that expression must have been ‘coined’ without reference to the money trees which are to be found throughout England.

These trees look like they are producing coins right along with their branches and bark. Can you imagine coming across one when you are out for a walk? After the first flush of joyous discovery (“Mine, all mine!”) you’d probably guess that there was some sort of propitiatory element to be discerned in coin laden branches. What, other than superstition, could possess people to embed their hard-earned money into the bark of trees?

Gary R. Varner, in The Folklore of Trees, says that the practice of placing coins and even needles and pins in the bark of certain trees was a common folk practice in England:

In England, it was a common folk practice to place coins, needles and pins in the bark of certain trees as offerings to the local spirit or Fairy. This occurred most often when a holy well was nearby. Reportedly, in 1877Queen Victoria placed silver coins in the bark of a tree growing beside a holy well dedicated to St. Mourie on Loch Maree. The leaving of offerings on sacred trees in exchange for healing was a practice spoken of in the Odyssey as well as by Ovid in Metamorphoses.

Troll skin

Coin bark from Ingleton Falls near Ingleton in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Image Credit: Wikipedia

The weathered coins seem to merge with the bark and the appearance of the bark, so encrusted with coins, is reptilian, draconic — even troll-like. It calls to mind stories of trolls turning into stone at the rising of the sun. In the case of these trees, the reverse would happen at sunset — the troll would waken and stretch its knotty limbs, joints popping along its bumpy length.

Arboreal equivalent of wishing wells

“Money tree” near Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire
Image credit: Wikipedia

While a desire for wealth is one reason that money is pushed in to the bark, the coins can symbolize many things desired and wished for, such as: love, children (the number of coins pushed in being hoped to represent the number of children to result) abundant crops, and the safety of loved ones. Anything you could wish for in throwing a coin into a wishing well finds its equivalent represented here. A coin to push your wish along and a penny for your thoughts.

Gold Digger
Annette Marie Hyder
Previously published in Prairie Poetry

You lay down on top of me
blocking the sun.
You sowed me and reaped me.
You dug in and leached
all value from my soil.
Your green crop busheled
and pecked.
You grew a whole forest
of C note trees
and their coinberries clinked
like deposit box keys.
Now you walk my perimeters
eyeball the horizon
in new fancy top hat and tails.
You say it’s time to move on
to untrampled pastures.
But you’ll always remember me,
having part of me with you,
the dirt beneath your nails.

Links of interest:

The Folklore of Trees by Gary R. Varner
Uncyclopedia’s money tree entry
Attic24’s lovely blog on money trees
The book I’m reading right now that intensified my appreciation of the folkloric element to money trees:

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