Mardi Gras beads and a tree.
Mardi Gras beads and a tree.

This is where Mardi Gras beads come from.

They grow on trees. All over the city. You pick them when they are ripe.

But, seriously…

They mostly come from China. The same place just about every inexpensively manufactured product comes from. Some glass beads still come from the Czech Republic. But, they are pricey and few. In the six years since we returned, I can count on one hand how many glass beads we have. We keep those. On the other hand, if we hadn’t given most of them away, I could have weighed the plastic ones by the pound.


Once, many years ago, I remember seeing one bead tree located in one neighborhood along St. Charles Avenue. It was created by accident. The krewes riding the parade floats threw beads out far, wide and high so the people standing the back rows of the crowds could catch some too. This one particular tree was located in a place where beads just seem to collect. They also collect on power lines. Phone lines. Streetcar power lines. Shop signs. And, so on.

Just like anything that is even marginally successful in New Orleans, this accidental occurrence was copied again and again and again. Now there trees are all over the city. And, they are no accident. For instance, this tree is located on the downriver side of Jackson Square. No parade has ever passed this way. At least, in the last couple of centuries. Somebody just thought it was a good idea. At the time. After a few “adult beverages.” I’m just guessing here. But, this is The French Quarter. In New Orleans.

It probably was good drunken idea. (See what I did there?) But, most Mardi Gras beads are cheap. The color doesn’t last. Especially in our extreme weather. Eventually, these glistening beads will turn flat black, gray or even a dirty white. The tree won’t look so pretty then. Nobody will climb up and take them down. When the string that holds the beads finally rots, down will come the beads. One string at a time. Round objects that are rolling around 18th Century pavement are no fun.

The picture. Probably f5.6 at 1/4 of a second with a twist.

A twist you ask?

Cameras today have all kinds of anti-motion software. In the old days 1/4 of a second generally meant you added motion to the picture whether you wanted to or not if you weren’t using a tripod.

Today, you can make a sharp picture whether you want to or not. So, as I pressed the shutter release button I sort of twisted the hand that’s holding the camera. My left hand. I made forced movement. There’s a clue you can use.


8 Replies to “Bead Tree”

  1. Is it weird that all this makes me think of is alcohol?!? 😉 I’m kidding… but yeah… me and Mardi Gras might clash a bit, and it’s funny that you brought up the adult beverages in the post. Awesome photo Ray!


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