What was once a common practice in Africa (some even trace it back to ancient Arabia–think “genie in a bottle”) has become a popular piece of southern garden art. It is believed that people would place bottles on old tree branches or would even strip a small tree of all its leaves and place bottles on the limbs. The thought was that the bottles would attract evil spirits which would enter the bottles and then become trapped. If you’ve ever blown over the open top of a bottle and heard the low whistle it makes, you might be able to understand this idea. The bottle tree was introduced to Europe and North America by african slaves. The idea quickly caught on in the south and has been a part of southern culture for years. Check out a more comprehensive history of bottle trees here.
Bottle trees of today are more garden art than they are “haint” catchers, but still play an important role in southern gardens. Many of the bottle trees you find today are actually decorative welded rods rather than actual trees. One central Alabama artist, known as Bottle Tree Bob, is creating his own version of these whimsical pieces of art. You can get your own bottle tree by ordering one from his website or by visiting one of the locations that sell his creations. Either way, you’ll have some artwork that’s uniquely southern.