40 of the Most Interesting Trees Around the World

Northern Ireland's Dark Hedges
Northern Ireland's Dark Hedges
AndySG/iStock via Getty Images

Whether they bleed crimson sap or uncannily resemble human features, these 40 trees aren't your average oaks and elms.

1. Tree shaped like a hand

Ramzi Haidar, Getty Images

In 2009, a man from the southern Lebanese village of Hasbaya brought his 85-year-old olive tree to Beirut to be displayed. He believed its resemblance to an outstretched palm was miraculous and felt it should be shared with the public.

2. "World Famous Tree House"

Fox Photos/Getty Images

Recognized by Ripley's Believe It or Not! in the 1930s as "the tallest one-room house in the world," this redwood along northern California's Redwood Highway was hollowed out by a fire some 300 years ago. But it's still alive and thriving, and although no one lives there now, the inside is home to some small mechanical toys. Despite the Ripley's recognition, it doesn't appear that anyone actually lived in the house, though a road construction crew stayed there for a week in the 1920s when building the road. If you're in the area and want to see another interesting spot, check out the nearby Living Chimney Tree, which is similar (minus the mechanical diversions).

3. Chapel Oak

Ji-Elle, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

As the oldest known tree in France, Le Chêne Chapelle ("The Chapel Oak") in the village of Allouville-Bellefosse has been around for at least 800 years, and some say it dates all the way back to the reign of Charlemagne. Though lightning struck the tree and rendered its center hollow during the 1600s, the tree managed to survive. A local abbot decided to make use of the hollow by erecting a shrine to the Virgin Mary inside; a second chapel and a staircase were later added. Sadly, the Chapel Oak isn't doing so well these days: Parts of the tree, including its 33-foot trunk, have died, and shingles cover the trunk where the bark is missing.

4. Ray Bradbury's Halloween Tree at Disneyland

In 1972, Ray Bradbury wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Halloween Tree. In 2007, the tree was brought to life at Disneyland as part of its annual Halloween celebrations. The placement is fitting: Bradbury has long been a part of Disney history, from narrating Epcot’s Spaceship Earth ride to writing the screenplay for the Disney films Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.

The oak, located outside of the Golden Horseshoe Saloon, is festooned with lights and adorned with hand-painted pumpkins.

5. Dragon Blood Tree

Khaled Fazaa, Getty Images

The dragon blood tree, native to Yemen, doesn't just look cool from the outside—it also "bleeds" red sap. Because of its crimson color, it's been speculated that the dragon's blood sap was used to give Stradivarius violins their distinct hue.

6. Rainbow Eucalyptus

It's easy to see why this tree has such a colorful name, but how it gets its bright streaks is not as easy to explain. The ever-changing colors are due to the evolving bark of the eucalyptus. As the bark grows, it exfoliates thin layers of tissue, and as the layers peel off, the fresh, lime green bark underneath is revealed. As the exposed bark ages, it changes to dark green, then blue-purple, then pink-orange. The final stage before exfoliation starts again is a brownish-maroon hue, so the rainbow colors are really just different natural stages of bark development.

7. Angel Oak

Michael Ver Sprill, Getty Images

At 65 feet tall and 28 feet in circumference, this massive oak tree on Johns Island near Charleston, South Carolina, provides shade to an area of about 17,000 square feet. Oak trees usually grow up instead of out, but since this one is somewhere between 400 and 500 years old, it has had plenty of time to do both. The Angel Oak gets its name from former owners Justus and Martha Waight Tucker Angel, but the tree is now owned by the City of Charleston.

8. The Hangman's Elm

The oldest living tree in Manhattan may also be the most notorious. Located in the northwest corner of Washington Square Park, the elm stands at nearly 110 feet tall and is estimated to be 330 years old. Though there are no public records to support it, the tree is said to have been used for hundreds of public hangings, from Revolutionary War traitors to prisoners from the nearby Newgate State Prison.

9. Bike in a Tree

Sean O'Neill, Flickr // CC BY-ND-2.0

There's a sad story that goes along with this bike that has been overtaken by a tree with an appetite: it's said that a young boy who lived on Vashon Island, Washington, left his bike leaning against the trunk in 1914, then went off to war and never came back to retrieve it. Fortunately, that story is made-up. The real story, according to resident Helen Puz, isn't quite so heartstring-tugging.

In 1954, Puz's 8-year-old son Don inherited a girl's bike. He wasn't too happy about riding it, so when the bike somehow got "misplaced," Don didn't look too hard for it. Fast-forward 40 years, when Puz read an article in the local paper about a bike that had been lifted five feet off the ground by a tree that grew up around it. She checked it out, and realized that Don's long-lost bike had been found.

10. Crooked Trees in Poland

The 400 50-foot pine trees near Gryfino, Poland, which are believed to have been planted in the early 1930s, bend sharply at the trunk in a manner that has scientists baffled. If the structure was the result of a genetic mutation, the trees would curve in places other than the base. And if the cause was environmental—say, snow weighing down the trunks as they were newly formed—then surrounding trees of the same type and age should have been similarly affected. One hypothesis is that local farmers manipulated the trees to curve for furniture purposes, but were prevented from harvesting them when World War II broke out.

11. The Sunland Baobab

South African Tourism, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

With a circumference of 154 feet, the Sunland Baobab in Modjadjiskloof, South Africa, was once famous for being the widest Baobab in the world. Carbon-dated at around 1700 years old, the tree began to hollow out at around 1000 years old—which made it perfect for a small bar inside. Sadly, a large branch representing about one-third of the tree split off in 2016, causing a lot of damage and permanently closing the bar inside.

12. Thimmamma Marrimanu

It’s said that this 200-year-old Banyan tree in Andhra Pradesh, India, is named for a widow named Thimmamma who threw herself onto her husband’s funeral pyre in 1433. Her sacrifice caused one of the poles to grow into the giant tree it is today, covering five acres of land and putting down 4000 prop roots. Today, couples pray at the tree for fertility, and anyone who removes its leaves is said to be cursed.

13. Strangler Fig

KarenHBlack/iStock via Getty Images

The lattice on the tree above may be beautiful, but it's also deadly: the intricate pattern is actually the strangler fig slowly squeezing the life out of the tree it envelops. The fig tree grows when a bird or other animal drops its sticky seed in the branches of another tree. The seed is able to thrive on the tree's surface, and as it grows, its long roots reach down the host tree and, eventually, into the ground. The strangler fig can be found in tropical and subtropical zones, and is a frequent sight in southern Florida and the Keys.

14. Monkey Puzzle Tree

Krasimir Kanchev/iStock via Getty Images

The national tree of Chile is certainly a distinctive one. Though the Araucaria araucana is more pyramid-shaped when it's young, it becomes rather top-heavy as it ages—and it can really age. Monkey puzzle trees can live to be up to 2000 years old and reach heights of about 164 feet. As a conifer, it produces edible cones called piñones. Now, about that unusual name: Legend has it that in the 1850s, when the trees were becoming popular as decorative plantings in English gardens, noted lawyer Charles Austin looked at one and remarked, "It would puzzle a monkey to climb that."

15. The Boab Prison Tree

Martin Kraft, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

There's a dark legend surrounding this unique boab tree in Western Australia: It's said that the tree's human-sized knothole made it the perfect prison cell during the 1890s, when prisoners were on their way to Derby for sentencing. Although the tree is on the State Heritage Register as "prison boab tree" and the signage around the tree acknowledges this supposed history, there doesn't appear to be much evidence for the tree being used as a cage.

16. Buddha in a Tree

ironypoisoning, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

No one is quite sure how this Buddha head got so perfectly entwined in the roots of this tree at the Wat Mahathat temple in Ayutthaya, Thailand, but there are plenty of theories. The statue was likely decapitated in 1767, when the Burmese army invaded and destroyed the ancient temple. The temple was abandoned until the 1950s, when restoration work began, and that's when the statue head was discovered. One theory is that the perfect juxtaposition happened to occur naturally when the statue piece fell within the tree roots just right. Another is that a thief placed it there to hide it in the 1900s, which is when part of the temple collapsed because of treasure hunters.

However it happened, the head is there to stay—a guard is now stationed nearby to make sure that no souvenir-hunting tourists gets too grabby.

17. Wonderboom

The Wonderboom, or “Tree of Wonder,” is a 1000-year-old fig tree in Pretoria, South Africa. The tree is certainly impressive in size, standing 82 feet tall and boasting 13 trunks, but it also looms large in legend, too. Local lore says that an ancient chief buried at the base of the tree is what made it grow so extraordinarily large. As massive as the tree is now, it was once even bigger; in 1870, it was damaged in a fire started by a hunting party.

18. Árbol de tule

At more than 32 feet in diameter and about 114 in height, the Árbol del Tule in the town of Santa María del Tule, Oaxaca, Mexico, is considered to be the broadest tree in the world. In fact, the Montezuma cypress is so stout that scientists once thought it was actually a few trees that had somehow merged together, but modern testing has revealed that the 1500-year-old tree really is just a single trunk.

19. Cypress Tree Tunnel

Manel Vinuesa/iStock via Getty Images

Planted sometime around 1930, this Monterey cypress tunnel at Point Reyes National Seashore, a park reserve in Marin County, California, marks a historic wireless transmission site that still stands today.

20. The Circus Trees

In 1947, a Swedish-American farmer named Axel Erlandson turned his tree-shaping hobby into a tourist attraction. Erlandson, who had a knack for creating living art with trees and plants, was constantly experimenting with grafting trees together and encouraging multiple trunks to grow into one. When he had 60 to 70 fairly mature examples of artfully twisted trunks and branches, he dug them up and relocated them near Santa Cruz, California. The attraction garnered some attention from Ripley's Believe It or Not! and LIFE magazine, and in 1963, Erlandson sold his grove of "Circus Trees." Sadly, he passed away in 1964 without telling anyone how he shaped the trees. "I talk to them," he was fond of telling anyone who asked.

Though they've passed from owner to owner through the years, these days, the trees are a main attraction at the Gilroy Gardens theme park.

21. Dark Hedges

They're just beech trees, but the gnarled, foreboding tunnel they form has turned them into one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland. The trees—about 150 of them—were planted 200 years ago by the Stuart family, who wanted to create an intimidating entrance to their home. Known as "the Dark Hedges," the cluster of trees have made a handful of appearances in TV shows and movies, incuding Game of Thrones. Hoping to keep the trees healthy for another two centuries, the Department of Infrastructure recently banned vehicles from driving on the road. That, of course, didn't stop powerful winds from uprooting one of the trees in early 2019.

22. Hyperion

The world’s tallest living tree, Hyperion looms nearly 380 feet tall in California’s Redwood National Park. That’s about 75 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, from the base of the pedestal to the tip. If it wasn’t for woodpecker damage near the top of the tree, Hyperion could have been even taller. Unless you’re in the know, you’ll probably never see Hyperion; its exact location has been kept secret to protect it from vandals.

23. Windblown Trees of New Zealand

These macrocarpa (a type of cypress) trees in New Zealand may look like they're windblown, but they retain their extreme angles even on a calm day. The strange bend is the result of saplings surviving and thriving in the windy environment. The manager of the farm where the trees live says their photogenic branches conceal a secret—the ruins of a house that sheep now use for shelter.

24. The Scream Tree

Pleuntje, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

This tree in the Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen nature reserve near Ghent, Belgium has knotholes that makes it resemble Edvard Munch's 1893 painting The Scream.

25. The Tree of Life

Gerardo Martinez Cons/iStock via Getty Images

Also known as the Tree Root Cave, this tree, located in Olympic National Park near Kalaloch, Washington, has managed to survive even though erosion has removed most of its support system.

26. The Lone Cypress

By Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Located on the Monterey Peninsula in California, the Monterey Cypress is said to be the most photographed tree in North America . Believed to be more than 250 years old, the single cypress tree clings to a rocky outcrop that juts out into the water. Sadly, the tree lost a major limb when it was damaged in a 2019 storm.

27. Cashew of pirangi

If you’re a fan of cashews, this tree near Natal, Brazil, is your dream come true. Covering about two acres, what feels like a forest is actually the world’s largest cashew tree. A genetic mutation caused the branches to grow out instead of up, and when the branches eventually touch the ground, they root, causing the single tree to spread outward into a cashew wonderland.

28. The Banyan Tree in Lahaina, Maui

Hotaik Sung iStock via Getty Images

On April 24, 1873, Sheriff William Owen Smith of Lahaina planted an 8-foot Banyan tree to honor the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission there. Residents encouraged the tree’s aerial roots to grow symmetrically by hanging glass jars filled with water from the branches they wanted to descend. And under their watchful eyes, the tree now stands more than 60 feet high and has 46 major trunks. It’s now the largest Banyan tree in the U.S.

29. Methuselah Bristlecone Pine

hlsnow iStock via Getty Images

Named for the biblical figure that lived to be nearly 1000, the Methuselah Bristlecone Pine in the Inyo National Forest in Eastern California is almost five times as old. Thought to be around 4800 years old, Methuselah has survived extreme elevations and winds to become the second-oldest tree in the world. (Old Tjikko in Sweden is the winner at 9500 years.)

30. The Ashbrittle Yew

By Martin Bodman, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

At up to 4000 years old, this yew tree in the village of Ashbrittle in Somerset, England, is ancient—predating even Stonehenge. The seven-trunked tree stands in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist, but maybe not for much longer. Half of the branches appear to be dead, and locals fear the yew may be battling a disease. But you don’t live to be several thousand years old without surviving a few rough patches: A tree doctor in the area says it will likely be just fine.

31. Major Oak

travellinglight iStock via Getty Images

Move over, Robin Hood: the Major Oak is the real star of Sherwood Forest. The biggest oak tree in Britain, the Major Oak weighs an estimated 23 tons and has a trunk circumference of more than 36 feet and a canopy spread of 91 feet. Its popularity as a tourist attraction caused officials to add supports and fence the area off in the 1970s, so you can’t camp beneath it as Robin Hood was rumored to have done—but you can still get a pretty decent selfie.

32. Isaac Newton's Apple Tree

In 1666, as the story goes, Isaac Newton was relaxing under a tree when an apple detached from its branch and beaned Newton on the noggin, dislodging the theory of gravity from his brain. According to the U.K. National Trust, you can see the very tree that inspired Newton at Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire, England. Though a storm blew the tree down in 1820, the Trust says the tree remained rooted and re-grew from the base, and that tree is the one still standing at Woolsthorpe—and dendrochronology confirms that it’s the right age.

33. Cedars of god

ahmed abdelsalam iStock via Getty Images

Cedar trees are synonymous with Lebanon. While the mountains were once thick with the ancient trees, deforestation and climate change have reduced their numbers—while the remaining copses growing higher up the mountainside to chase the cooler climates they prefer. Only 10 square miles of cedars remain in Lebanon; its most famous patch, Cedars of God, has been fenced off and preserved since 1876.

34. Buttonball tree

The locals in Sunderland, Massachusetts, claim this 113-foot American sycamore is the "widest tree east of the Mississippi." A plaque proudly proclaims that the tree “lived here at the time of the signing of our Constitution,” and it has been estimated that it’s anywhere from 350 to 400 years old.

35. General Sherman

bluejayphoto iStock via Getty Images

California’s Sequoia National Park boasts the largest tree in the world by volume. The 2300 to 2700-year-old-tree was discovered by naturalist James Wolverton in 1879; he named for Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, under whom Wolverton had served. In 2006, General Sherman’s largest branch—bigger than most tree trunks—broke off, smashing the perimeter fence and cratering the walkway below. There were no witnesses to the event, and it’s not believed that the incident is an indication of poor health in the tree.

36. Caesarsboom

The Caesarsboom in Lo, Belgium, isn’t that impressive to look at—it’s a yew tree, and it’s lovely, but it’s certainly not massive in height or girth or volume. Its one claim to fame, however, is that during his travels to Britain, Julius Caesar once tied his horse to it while he had a drink. Modern historians have no way to ascertain whether this story has any basis in fact but, as Atlas Obscura points out, the city is crossed by what was once the Roman highway.

37. Son of tree that owns itself

By Bloodofox, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

To understand the Son of Tree That Owns Itself in Athens, Georgia, you have to know the story of its “father.” Sometime between 1820 and 1832, Colonel William Henry Jackson deeded a white oak tree on his property—to itself. As the story goes, he had fond childhood memories of the tree and wanted to reward it. The tree entered local legend, even receiving an engraved plaque with its story on it. Sadly, Tree That Owns Itself fell into decline in the early 1900s after suffering natural erosion and damage from an ice storm, and toppled over on October 9, 1942. Luckily, people saw the tree’s demise coming and gathered acorns to produce saplings. Hence, Son of Tree That Owns Itself was planted on the same spot on December 4, 1946.

38. Tāne Mahuta

The World Traveller iStock via Getty Images

Tāne Mahuta, Maorian for “Lord of the Forest,” is the largest kauri tree in New Zealand. The 148-foot-tall tree, estimated to be up to 2500 years old, is one of the last remnants of an ancient subtropical rainforest on the North Auckland Peninsula. According to Maori mythology, "Tāne is the son of Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother. Tāne was the child that tore his parents' parental embrace and once done set about clothing his mother in the forest we have here today. All living creatures of the forest are regarded as Tāne's children.

39. Callixylon tree stump

Brad Holt // CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr

The next time you find yourself on the campus of East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, take a peek at the tree stump located at the entrance. The petrified stump there belongs to a Callixylon tree, a long-extinct species with fern-like leaves. Estimated to be 250 million years old, the stump was discovered at a nearby farm and was donated to ECU after a brief scuffle with the Smithsonian.

40. The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Tree

A sacred fig, the Sri Maha Bodhi is said to be the exact spot where Gautama Buddha, the Supreme Buddha, found enlightenment. Many trees have since been propagated from the original Bodhi tree, and several of them are now the center of worship themselves—including the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It’s said to be the oldest-living human-planted tree in existence and was propagated in 288 B.C.

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor

Dash/Keurig
Dash/Keurig

If you're looking for deals on items like Keurigs, BISSELL vacuums, and essential oil diffusers, it's usually pretty slim pickings until the holiday sales roll around. Thankfully, Amazon is starting these deals a little earlier with their Big Fall Sale, where customers can get up to 20 percent off everything from home decor to WFH essentials and kitchen gadgets. Now you won’t have to wait until Black Friday for the deal you need. Make sure to see all the deals that the sale has to offer here and check out our favorites below.

Electronics

Dash/Amazon

- BISSELL Lightweight Upright Vacuum Cleaner $170 (save $60)

- Dash Deluxe Air Fryer $80 (save $20)

- Dash Rapid 6-Egg Cooker $17 (save $3)

- Keurig K-Café Single Coffee Maker $169 (save $30)

- COMFEE Toaster Oven $29 (save $9)

- AmazonBasics 1500W Oscillating Ceramic Heater $31 (save $4)

Home office Essentials

HP/Amazon

- HP Neverstop Laser Printer $250 (save $30)

- HP ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed OCR Scanner $274 (save $25)

- HP Printer Paper (500 Sheets) $5 (save $2)

- Mead Composition Books Pack of 5 Ruled Notebooks $11 (save $2)

- Swingline Desktop Hole Punch $7 (save $17)

- Officemate OIC Achieva Side Load Letter Tray $15 (save $7)

- PILOT G2 Premium Rolling Ball Gel Pens 12-Pack $10 (save $3)

Toys and games

Selieve/Amazon

- Selieve Toys Old Children's Walkie Talkies $17 (save $7)

- Yard Games Giant Tumbling Timbers $59 (save $21)

- Duckura Jump Rocket Launchers $11 (save $17)

- EXERCISE N PLAY Automatic Launcher Baseball Bat $14 (save $29)

- Holy Stone HS165 GPS Drones with 2K HD Camera $95 (save $40)

Home Improvement

DEWALT/Amazon

- DEWALT 20V MAX LED Hand Held Work Light $54 (save $65)

- Duck EZ Packing Tape with Dispenser, 6 Rolls $11 (save $6)

- Bissell MultiClean Wet/Dry Garage Auto Vacuum $111 (save $39)

- Full Circle Sinksational Sink Strainer with Stopper $5 (save $2)

Home Décor

NECA/Amazon

- A Christmas Story 20-Inch Leg Lamp Prop Replica by NECA $41 save $5

- SYLVANIA 100 LED Warm White Mini Lights $8 (save 2)

- Yankee Candle Large Jar Candle Vanilla Cupcake $17 (save $12)

- Malden 8-Opening Matted Collage Picture Frame $20 (save $8)

- Lush Decor Blue and Gray Flower Curtains Pair $57 (save $55)

- LEVOIT Essential Oil Diffuser $25 (save $5)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

12 Surprising Facts About T.S. Eliot

Getty
Getty

Born September 26, 1888, modernist poet and playwright Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot is best known for writing "The Waste Land." But the 1948 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature was also a prankster who coined a perennially popular curse word, and created the characters brought to life in the Broadway musical "Cats." In honor of Eliot’s birthday, here are a few things you might not know about the writer.

1. T.S. Eliot enjoyed holding down "real" jobs.

Throughout his life, Eliot supported himself by working as a teacher, banker, and editor. He could only write poetry in his spare time, but he preferred it that way. In a 1959 interview with The Paris Review, Eliot remarked that his banking and publishing jobs actually helped him be a better poet. “I feel quite sure that if I’d started by having independent means, if I hadn’t had to bother about earning a living and could have given all my time to poetry, it would have had a deadening influence on me,” Eliot said. “The danger, as a rule, of having nothing else to do is that one might write too much rather than concentrating and perfecting smaller amounts.”

2. One of the longest-running Broadway shows ever exists thanks to T.S. Eliot.

Getty Images

In 1939, Eliot published a book of poetry, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which included feline-focused verses he likely wrote for his godson. In stark contrast to most of Eliot's other works—which are complex and frequently nihilistic—the poems here were decidedly playful. For Eliot, there was never any tension between those two modes: “One wants to keep one’s hand in, you know, in every type of poem, serious and frivolous and proper and improper. One doesn’t want to lose one’s skill,” he explained in his Paris Review interview. A fan of Eliot's Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats since childhood, in the late '70s, Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to set many of Eliot's poems to music. The result: the massively successful stage production "Cats," which opened in London in 1981 and, after its 1982 NYC debut, became one of the longest-running Broadway shows of all time.

3. Three hours per day was his T.S. Eliot’s writing limit.

Eliot wrote poems and plays partly on a typewriter and partly with pencil and paper. But no matter what method he used, he tried to always keep a three hour writing limit. “I sometimes found at first that I wanted to go on longer, but when I looked at the stuff the next day, what I’d done after the three hours were up was never satisfactory," he explained. "It’s much better to stop and think about something else quite different.”

4. T.S. Eliot considered "Four Quartets" to be his best work.

In 1927, Eliot converted to Anglicanism and became a British citizen. His poems and plays in the 1930s and 1940s—including "Ash Wednesday," "Murder in the Cathedral," and "Four Quartets"—reveal themes of religion, faith, and divinity. He considered "Four Quartets,” a set of four poems that explored philosophy and spirituality, to be his best writing. Out of the four, the last is his favorite.

5. T.S. Eliot had an epistolary friendship with Groucho Marx.

Eliot wrote comedian Groucho Marx a fan letter in 1961. Marx replied, gave Eliot a photo of himself, and started a correspondence with the poet. After writing back and forth for a few years, they met in real life in 1964, when Eliot hosted Marx and his wife for dinner at his London home. The two men, unfortunately, didn’t hit it off. The main issue, according to a letter Marx wrote his brother: the comedian had hoped he was in for a "Literary Evening," and tried to discuss King Lear. All Eliot wanted to talk about was Marx's 1933 comedy Duck Soup. (In a 2014 piece for The New Yorker, Lee Siegel suggests there had been "simmering tension" all along, even in their early correspondence.)

6. Ezra Pound tried to crowdfund T.S. Eliot’s writing.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1921, Eliot took a few months off from his banking job after a nervous breakdown. During this time, he finished writing "The Waste Land," which his friend and fellow poet Ezra Pound edited. Pound, with the help of other Bohemian writers, set up Bel Esprit, a fund to raise money for Eliot so he could quit his bank job to focus on writing full-time. Pound managed to get several subscribers to pledge money to Eliot, but Eliot didn’t want to give up his career, which he genuinely liked. The Liverpool Post, Chicago Daily Tribune, and the New York Tribune reported on Pound’s crowdfunding campaign, incorrectly stating that Eliot had taken the money, but continued working at the bank. After Eliot protested, the newspapers printed a retraction.

7. Writing in French helped T.S. Eliot overcome writer’s block.

After studying at Harvard, Eliot spent a year in Paris and fantasized about writing in French rather than English. Although little ever came of that fantasy, during a period of writer’s block, Eliot did manage to write a few poems in French. “That was a very curious thing which I can’t altogether explain. At that period I thought I’d dried up completely. I hadn’t written anything for some time and was rather desperate,” he told The Paris Review. “I started writing a few things in French and found I could, at that period ...Then I suddenly began writing in English again and lost all desire to go on with French. I think it was just something that helped me get started again."

8. T.S. Eliot set off stink bombs in London with his nephew.

Eliot, whose friends and family called him Tom, was supposedly a big prankster. When his nephew was young, Eliot took him to a joke shop in London to purchase stink bombs, which they promptly set off in the lobby of a nearby hotel. Eliot was also known to hand out exploding cigars, and put whoopee cushions on the chairs of his guests.

9. T.S. Eliot may have been the first person to write the word "bulls**t."

In the early 1910s, Eliot wrote a poem called "The Triumph of Bulls**t." Like an early 20th-century Taylor Swift tune, the poem was Eliot’s way of dissing his haters. In 1915, he submitted the poem to a London magazine … which rejected it for publication. The word bulls**t isn’t in the poem itself, only the poem’s title, but The Oxford English Dictionary credits the poem with being the first time the curse word ever appeared in print.

10. T.S. Eliot coined the expression “April is the cruelest month.”

Thanks to Eliot, the phrase “April is the cruelest month” has become an oft-quoted, well-known expression. It comes from the opening lines of "The Waste Land”: “April is the cruelest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain.”

11. T.S. Eliot held some troubling beliefs about religion.

Over the years, Eliot made some incredibly problematic remarks about Jewish people, including arguing that members of a society should have a shared religious background, and that a large number of Jews creates an undesirably heterogeneous culture. Many of his early writing also featured offensive portrayals of Jewish characters. (As one critic, Joseph Black, pointed out in a 2010 edition of "The Waste Land" and Other Poems, "Few published works displayed the consistency of association that one finds in Eliot's early poetry between what is Jewish and what is squalid and distasteful.") Eliot's defenders argue that the poet's relationship with Jewish people was much more nuanced that his early poems suggest, and point to his close relationships with a number of Jewish writers and artists.

12. You can watch a movie based on T.S. Eliot’s (really bad) marriage.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Tom & Viv, a 1994 film starring Willem Dafoe, explores Eliot’s tumultuous marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood, a dancer and socialite. The couple married in 1915, a few months after they met, but the relationship quickly soured. Haigh-Wood had constant physical ailments, mental health problems, and was addicted to ether. The couple spent a lot of time apart and separated in the 1930s; she died in a mental hospital in 1947. Eliot would go on to remarry at the age of 68—his 30-year-old secretary, Esmé Valerie Fletcher—and would later reveal that his state of despair during his first marriage was the catalyst and inspiration for "The Waste Land."

This story has been updated for 2020.