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Nature Calls: Talking Trees

Talking Tree.In these ecologically sensitive times, maybe we all should start listening to the trees. Unfortunately, real trees have a hard time communicating clearly with their limited vocabulary and poor diction. But when it comes to animatronic trees made out of non-biodegradable materials like motor assemblies and urethane foam….well…they just can’t seem to shut up.

You never know when you’ll encounter one of these leafy lecturers. They often sprout up in grocery stores: like the one installed in a ShopRite supermarket in Jackson, New Jersey or the Poland Springs Trees at Stew Leonard’s locations in Danbury, Connecticut and Yonkers, New York, which merrily bark out paragraphs of product placement. They serve as informal babysitters at climate-controlled indoor playgrounds such as the Enchanted Forest Play Area at the Harrisburg Mall in Pennsylvania. Even a small local shop like Curry Shoes in Lexington, Kentucky has its own amusingly modest example — apparently, all it knows how to say is goodbye.

Talking trees are essential to any pseudo-eco chain restaurant like Bugaboo Creek or Rainforest Cafe. The Great Wolf Lodge (a family-themed indoor water park empire) uses them for storytime.  And of course, reinforcement are always ready to step in for holiday cheer: Tinker the Talking Christmas Tree in Dreamland Forest in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is a particularly bug-eyed example.

Then there are the non-profit types babbling on at museums. Usually they give out the expected forest facts, as Tree-sa does for the Children’s Discovery Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota or supervise yet another “storytime” like the example at Early Works in Huntville, Alabama. But sometimes they have something surprising to say: there’s a tree that can tell you all about the holiday of Tu’B’Shvat at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn.

Talking TreeStrangely, talking trees seem to be on the way out at many forestry museums such as the World Forestry Center in Portland, Oregon where they have been cut down in their prime due to modernization efforts.

If these artificially articulate plants aren’t your thing — and honestly, they are pretty creepy — there are real trees that manage to speak without moving their lips (because they don’t have any!). Prerecorded verbiage blasts through loudspeakers at the Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California. And you can use your “cel” phone to listen in on the latest in historical urban tree chat (well, it’s actually humans talking) at the Tree Museum in the Bronx.

PS: I’m sure that there are hundreds that I’ve missed. Leave your gabby greenery sighting in the comments! [Post by Anne D. Bernstein]

Sections: Trends 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Nature Calls: Talking Trees”

  1. Gabe F. Says:
    July 9th, 2009 at 12:19 am

    The talking trees at the old F.A.O. Schwarz toy store chain will be sorely missed! I recall that once activated, they spoke in sing-songy tones: “I am (blah blah) the talking TREE, thank you for coming to play with ME!”
    (Words are capitalized to emphasize the rhyme, not because the tree was yelling).

  2. Henry V. Says:
    July 11th, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I still have nightmares about Bruce the Spruce who appeared every Christmas at a department store in Madison, WI. Aside from being an increasingly moth-eaten fake evergreen,the guy who did the voice spoke in a way that make everyone uncomfortable in a vague, slightly sleazy kind of way.

  3. Jody Day Says:
    September 1st, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    In the 80’s, Meier & Frank stores, now all turned into Macy’s, had a talking tree in their downtown store. It was almost like a stationary mascot costume with a person inside.

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