The Barnacle Tree was a mythical tree believed in the Middle Ages to have barnacles that opened to reveal Baby Geese. The story may have started from goose barnacles growing on driftwood. The legend of this tree was of great antiquity, and although Albert Magnus in the 13th century denounced it as false, the tales of this tree were popular among herbalists up until the 18th century. William Turner, a 16th century English herbalist accepted the idea, as did John Gerard in his Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes, published in 1597, in which he wrote: "...there is a small llande in Lancashire called the Pile of Foulders...whereon is found a certaine spume or froth, that in time breedeth unto certaine shels." These mussel-shaped shells would grow until they split open, revealing "the legs of the Bird hanging out...til at length it is all come forth." The bird would hang by its bill until fully mature, then would drop into the sea "where it gathereth feathers, and groweth to a foule, bigger than a Mallard, and lesser than a Goose."
During 2011, Beachgoers flocked to a British beauty spot today to catch a glimpse of an unusual 'barnacle tree sea monster' - thought to have been washed up by Hurricane Katia. The writhing mass of seaweed tentacles and barnacles - which measures around 40ft in length - was thrown up onto jagged rocks off Bude, Cornwall. Made up of goose barnacles - the long writhing stalks or pendulates, tipped with shells - are normally found in the ocean depths, but were washed up clinging to this Everglades tree trunk.Goose barnacles, which measure around 4cm, attach themselves to driftwood, ships hulls and other floating objects.
The unusual object was washed ashore at Crackington Haven, Bude, last week having spent months being buffeted around at sea. Balanced across the black rocks, the barnacles hang like strings of pearls from the sea-smoothed trunk creating a sea creature sculpture. Bruce Tigwell, 60, of Okehampton, Devon, whose wife Diana photographed the tree, believes the tree trunk barnacle sculpture may have come as far as America. He said: "It doesn't look like a tree that is native to this country, that's for sure. "It certainly makes for an unusual sight. It must be 40ft in length and is a beautiful sculpture. It suddenly appeared during the spring tide." Goose barnacles catch passing for using extendable feather-like appendages. They attach themselves to their chosen raft or rock by means of a retractable, strong stalk known as a peduncle, which measures up to 15cm. In medieval days, the barnacles' appearance were thought to be the eggs of the Barnacle Goose. In Portugal and Spain, the barnacles are a widely consumed and expensive delicacy. They have a briny taste and are served steaming hot with their triangular shells still attached.