Clinging to the hillside
My brother lives in southern Kansas, west of Wichita, and every time I drive out to see him, I notice the slant of the trees. Because of the prevailing winds from the southwest (particularly during the growing season,) most of the trees lean to the northeast.
The tree in the photo above grows at the crest of a big hill at the extreme northern edge of the "Gyp Hills" (Gypsum Hills, also called the Red Hills.) At the foot of this hill just to the north, the the flat Chikaskia River valley begins.
Over the years that the tree has grown on the hilltop, the strong southwest wind has laid it over sideways, forcing it to grow to the northeast in a completely unnatural position.
I don't know how old this tree is, but I do know it's not growing very fast. During the eighteen years or so that I've been going out there, it hasn't changed much. It didn't look much bigger the last time I saw it than it did the first time. Perhaps it will die from old age before it becomes heavy enough to uproot itself.
When the tree's leaves are heavy with rain or when its branches are caked with snow and ice, the extra weight is surely a great strain on the roots of the tree.
I have to wonder why the tree seed ever took root on this windswept hilltop. It's possible that it found a little wet spot there. Some of the hills on my brother's ranch are "springy" -- that is, during wet years, trickles of water ooze out of them.
Having observed this tree for a while, I was amused at a suggestion I found recently in the Third Biennial Report of the Kansas Horticultural Society (published in 1896.) The author was discussing how to plant orchards in northwest Kansas. "Lean the trees slightly to the southwest," he advised.