Witches’ broom on Pine Cone Lane conjures memories of late farmer

Ricky Johntson has noticed an unusual pine tree across from his home on Pine Cone Lane, Summit, for years, but never knew quite what it was. The tall tree has a thick mass of needles near the top.

Years ago, the late Clyde W. Gill pointed it out to Johnston and referred to it as a “seed tree.”  

The proper name is witches’ broom, said retired forester Marvin Taylor of Summit.

“Witches’ broom is an abnormal growth, but it is not rare in loblolly pine, though not as prolific as it appears to be in this tree,” Taylor said after seeing a photo.

He had never heard it called “seed tree.”

The tree is located on Benny May’s property amid countless other trees, and May said he’d never noticed the growth before. Nor had his neighbor, Robert Bryan.

People often mistake witches’ brooms for eagle nests. They tend to be denser than the one on May’s property. “That one used to be tight,” Johnston said. “It’s got to where it’s more open now.

“The other day I glanced up and thought of Mr. Gill.”

Mr. Gill died Jan. 26, 2011, at 87. He was a cattle farmer who spent his career in agriculture, including the poultry industry. He was manager of a feed mill and worked in agriculture product sales. He retired from the Franklin County Co-op.

He was also an avid vegetable gardener especially proud of his tomatoes.

When Gill showed Johnston the witches’ broom, “he said that’s where a lot of these other pine trees come from,” Johnston said.

A Mississippi Forestry Commission spokesman confirmed the mass is a witches’ broom but was unfamiliar with the term seed tree.

“We’ve never heard of this type of deformity being called a seed tree,” said MFC Director of Information and Outreach Jason Scott.

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