What Do Glass Bottles on Trees Mean?


Have you ever strolled through a Southern garden and stumbled upon a peculiar sight? A tree adorned with colorful bottles, glistening in the sunlight, casting a spellbinding aura of wonder and mystique. You might have found yourself wondering, “What’s a bottle tree, and what does it mean?” 

A Glimpse into History

Bottle trees, a fascinating Southern tradition, have a history that dates back centuries. The origins of this unique practice can be traced to the 9th century Congo, or possibly even earlier, around 1600 B.C. when hollow glass bottles first emerged in the ancient region of Mesopotamia. But why did people hang bottles on trees, and what was the significance?

Trapping Evil Spirits

Legend has it that the practice of hanging bottles on trees originated from a belief that these bottles had the power to trap evil spirits. Imagine that! These mystical trees served as guardians of the home, capturing malevolent forces and preventing them from entering. To make matters even more intriguing, cobalt blue bottles were the preferred choice for this purpose.

The Healing Power of Cobalt Blue

Cobalt blue holds a special place in the hearts of bottle tree enthusiasts. It’s not just a color; it’s a symbol of healing and protection. In the world of folklore, cobalt blue was believed to possess the power to ward off evil and negativity. So, it only made sense that these bottles, with their captivating hue, were the preferred vessels for this age-old tradition.

source: Bottle tree on St. Helena Island photo courtesy Fay Fine Art

Creating Your Own Bottle Tree

Now that we’ve unraveled the mystique surrounding bottle trees, you might be eager to create one of your own. It’s easier than you think! Here are two ways to get started:

The Natural Approach: Find a suitable tree with sturdy branches. Simply slide your chosen bottles onto the branches. Let the tree embrace the tradition and watch as it transforms into a beautiful work of art.

The DIY Route: If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can opt for the do-it-yourself route. Here’s what you’ll need:

Steel Frame: Create a sturdy frame using steel pipes. This frame will serve as the structure for your bottle tree.

Cobalt-Blue Bottles: Collect a variety of cobalt-blue bottles. You can find these at thrift stores, flea markets, or even in your own collection.

Bottle Bush: A bottle bush is a specialized accessory designed to hold your bottles securely in place. It adds a touch of authenticity to your bottle tree.

With your materials in hand, assemble the steel frame in the shape of a tree. Then, carefully slide the cobalt-blue bottles onto the frame, using the bottle bush to keep them in position. Voilà! You’ve created your very own bottle tree, steeped in tradition and history.

Bottle trees are more than just garden decorations; they’re a testament to the rich traditions and beliefs of the Southern culture. Whether you’re drawn to their mystical allure or their aesthetic appeal, bottle trees have a way of capturing the imagination.

So, the next time you find yourself wandering through a Southern garden and stumble upon a bottle tree, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the enchanting story behind this age-old tradition. It’s a reminder that sometimes, the most beautiful things are steeped in mystery and history, waiting to be uncovered and celebrated.