There’s a tree down the street from our apartment building that I always marvel at. It’s a honey locust, which is common enough around here – they plant it as a shade tree frequently on the East Side of Providence.



But this one – this one! – has huge dangerous-looking thorns sticking out of its trunk!



Partner pointed it out to me several years ago. “What the hell is this thing?” he said.



Well, I looked it up. Honey locusts, which are sweet and gentle as city trees, were originally very nastily thorny. They were bred out of it, but now and then they remember.



This is called “atavism”: the reversion to an earlier or more primitive form.



Partner and I did the 23andMe thing, which told us that we had some Neanderthal DNA (but not very much).



I see, however, that some people on line have lots more Neanderthal DNA than we do.



And, on a daily basis, I see a world full of short stocky people with pronounced brow ridges.






About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

2 Responses to Atavism

  1. starproms says:

    OMG what a vicious look outcrop of thorns. For sure I wouldn’t want to fall against it. It has given me an idea for a story though!!! I don’t think we have anything like it in England except for maybe the pyracantha, but that is not in the same league.

    • There aren’t many of these, but they are nasty. I’ll take some pictures of the thorny one for you; it’s really terrible-looking. I had no idea honey locusts did that until I looked them up.


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