Trees, trees, trees

Trees, trees, trees

Who would have thought that trees could be such darned clever little beggars?

Gathering round a Holm Oak

Well, twenty visitors braved the drizzle on Sunday afternoon and had a masterclass in the wonderful world of TREES. Led by Jo Roberts (Forest of Marston Vale’s resident “tree nerd” according to the Bedford Clanger), we had a great time finding out about how trees talk to each other, try to help each other and fight off enemies. Yes, they have characters, often stranger than in “Lord of the Rings” or in Disney cartoons.

The cemetery has an impressive variety of trees, many having been brought in from abroad, and which have evolved and adapted to the British climate, but just as interesting are the stories connected with them.

Arbutus unedo – the strawberry tree

You probably knew we have two Strawberry trees, but did you know that together with a bear, the strawberry tree is a symbol on the coat of arms of Madrid, and the Atletico Madrid football team?

We learnt that the lovely Tree of Heaven is, in fact, a bit of a psychopath. It grows quickly, and its shoots spread out so that it kills off any competitor trees nearby. You do not want that sort of Heaven in your garden. As we heard about the evil lifestyle of this tree, we heard music from the Park; suitably, it was “The Ride of the Valkyries.” In fact, the music carried on throughout the walk. For the London Plane, I think the accompaniment was “Colonel Bogey” and for the Holm Oak it was “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy”…but perhaps I was mistaken.

At the Walnut tree, a visitor (a very nice Enid Blyton nerd), told us that the Famous Five sometimes used the brown dye in walnuts to disguise themselves. We learnt you should never park a car under a Lime tree, as the insects on it may well relieve themselves on it. Thanks to Evolution, the leaves at the top of Holly trees aren’t as spiky as those at the bottom, as the top ones are out of reach of herbivores, so they don’t need to use up energy in producing spikes. Clever.

It strikes me as rather dangerous to experiment with tree leaves or bark as cures for all sorts of illnesses, but that’s what has been done traditionally, and some of them work. But just as many trees have been used experimentally to produce wine. Elderflower and elderberries are especially handy to have growing nearby. Cider could of course be produced from the apples in the orchard, but I hadn’t realised that the Medlar could produce such rudeness, especially from Chaucer (look it up).

Indian Bean tree

Cedar of Lebanon…Monkey Puzzle…Indian Bean tree…Coastal Redwood…and of course, the cemetery favourite, the Yew, which can live to such a very old age. These and all the rest are in the cemetery, and it was such an interesting walk that we’ve asked Jo back next year. All the trees will still be there, patiently waiting for you to hear about them, accompanied by background music from the Proms I hope. Nobody hugged a tree, but you never know, perhaps next year.

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