Balls in Trees // Les Boules dans l’Arbes


I’ve always been a fairly curious person. I can remember when I was younger asking a lot of questions. I was disappointed once because I was asked “What is the gray thing attached to some telephone poles” and I did not have the answer, although I had noted their presence. I immediately sought out the answer, it was a transformer for electricity. I was mortified. I imagined them to be houses for squirrels. As I saw it, this was a better use for the boxes. I then realized it would be a very bad idea to have a family of squirrels move in.

I’ve never considered myself a master of nature. However, since arriving in France, and when I was in Italy, I have begun questioning what types of trees I’m surrounded by. I am still hunting for the name of my favorite bird, quite numerous here in Angers. Unfortunately, Google searches for “black and blue bird, Angers” don’t turn up results, in French or English. I did succeed in solving one mystery.

“What are those balls in the trees?” “Quoi est-ce les boules dans l’arbes?”

This is what I began asking anyone who was French.

“What balls?” “Quelles boules?”

This was the response, every time. Trying to explain the balls, where to begin?

“You know, they are like green leaves but shaped like balls, they are round, and they grow in the trees. Or tell me what kind of tree this is at least.”

“They are probably nests.”

Those Balls

They most certainly were not nests. I know what  a nest looks like. And honestly, the birds here are either on steroids or are contractors, because all their nests are mansions. Its kind of hard to miss a nest here. Not to mention, nests aren’t green, nor are they circles, balls, 360 degrees in the round. Although, that would be kind of cool, to have a sphere house. I digress.

Would you believe, the all-knowing roommate finally figured out what I meant, it took some serious Google image searches to get on the same page. Turns out it’s Mistletoe. Apparently it exists in the States too, but mostly in the South. What’s even more amazing about this, is the Mistletoe has a whole lore here. The Druids used to go into the woods, and hack down the Mistletoe at night with a Golden Scythe. Why gold? Why at night? The real question: Why not climb trees and cut shit down? Guess you haven’t been drunk in the woods ever. Also, the mistletoe must touch the ground, or its ruined. Why? I have the answer, because they are Druids, and they live in the woods, and that’s just the way it is.

"Woohoo! What a party!! You guys are NUTS!!"

Turns out the whole Christmas tradition of kissing under the stuff is the same in both countries.

What really surprised me was how many people had no idea what I was talking about. I mean, you see this all the time, and no one questions it. I’m sure if aliens landed, as long as they didn’t cause any problems, no one would question it here in France.

As the French love to say, “C’est comme ça.” (That’s just the way it is.)

Gui de Chêne

"Oh scythe it, baby."


6 Responses to “Balls in Trees // Les Boules dans l’Arbes”

  1. Lovely web page. I actually tried to subscribe to the rss feed, but had a problem including it and so may need to make an effort once again in due course.

    • Lou Davis said

      OMG! Merci!!! I wondered the same thing driving from Paris to Geneva in the late winter. I asked the French guys with me and they had the same replies you heard “nests” or “what balls?”

      It was driving me crazy! The guys wondered why I was so obsessed with taking pictures of trees in France.

      OK, but how does the mistletoe get there? Do birds plant the seeds in the tree branches? Does the mistletoe feed off of the tree? There are still answers to be had, but the main one was what the balls in the trees were. (I knew that they weren’t nests! And I never bought their answer)

  2. Thank you so much! We were wondering about this while in France and even saw some in Denmark, too!

  3. Doris said

    Thank you for your article, I have see these beautiful trees and perfect balls, now Im happy to know its name…

  4. Kiki said

    Hi there, thanks for solving the mystery that I’ve been trying to solve for ages! Since moving to Switzerland, I’ve also been confounded by the “weird leaf-ball-nests” I’ve seen in trees everywhere. Thanks to your blog, I finally have an answer.
    By the way, the blue-and-black birds you’re seeing everywhere, do you mean the Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica)?

    All the best.

  5. Krystal said

    Thank you so much!! We are in France and I’ve been trying to figure out what all these balls in the trees are. Now I know!😉

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