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Returning home from our Friday trip to town, we spotted this strange apparition in a tree along the road.
After putting away the groceries, we went back with the camera and binos but can't say we learned very much.
The tree appears to be a White Pine but we are not even sure
of that as nothing looks quite right about the tree.
After querying the readers here, the consensus seems to be that it is a typical example of "Witches Broom". The following is extracted from a University of Florida web page:
"Witch's broom is a symptom of woody plants where compact clusters of numerous twigs and branches are formed.
The mass of shoots comes from a common point, giving a broom-like appearance. The witches broom may last several years. Although some people consider witches broom unsightly, serious injury seldom results.
Witches brooms can be caused by various sources including mites, viruses, fungi, mistletoes, insects, and nematodes. Knowing the type of host plant can help determine the cause of the witches broom."
It is not clear to me how so many different pathogens could cause the same symptoms but this seems to be the case.
I would like to thank all those who helped with the identification.