Thursday, 16 August 2012

Native British Trees

Interesting that the Eden Project blog on native trees – describes ‘native’ as at home: they’ve lived here for thousands of years and they’re happy .... totally makes sense ...

Yggdrasil, the world of Ash
Norse - see tree in Wiki

I have to say back in the 50s my parents planted an eucalyptus tree .... before any of us really thought about the damage ‘foreign’ trees would do ... eucalypts are fast growers, they suck up water like nothing on earth – which can damage building foundations ... I wonder how the house is now!

To satisfy my own needs I’ve been wanting to write about our British trees for some time ...  so all of these trees are extremely beneficial to a range of birds, small mammals, insects, butterflies and moths, bees and then there will be an odd interesting snippet or two.

Green Alder
We are all aware that throughout the world much research is being conducted into the health and medicinal properties of many plants – and the same is being done with our native plants.

Alder comes first:   it’s a deciduous tree, loving damp soil in which it grows quite fast ... in days gone by its timber was used as a lure for woodworm ... the worms enjoying the alder rather than the cupboard!

Did you know that mainly Alder pilings form the foundation of the Italian city of Venice?

Ash - Fraxinus Ornus
Ash comes next ... the tree revered by the Vikings.  The wood is very springy and can withstand sudden shocks, so is great for snooker cues and hockey sticks.

Apparently down here in Sussex – the tree is known as the Widow Maker because the large boughs would often drop without warning ... I suspect Health and Safety would have taken care of that now ... just cut the tree down and be done with it = sad, but true.

The English Oak need I say more than ‘the teeming world of the oak tree - a veritable haven for wildlife – just one tree can live and support so much life for up to 250- 500 years’.  My post says it all ...

Oak Leaves with Acorns

Forty oaks have been planted between the Olympic Park and Much Wenlock, Shropshire, in honour of the modern Olympic Founder, Baron de Coubertin.

The Hawthorn or May tree is a particularly useful hedging plant ... especially for agricultural use – as its spines and close branching render it effectively stock and human proof.

Hawthorn (L), Blackthorn (R).  Hawthorn has leaves before
flowers; Blackthorn flowers before leaves.
c/o Skills for
Its haws are commonly made into jellies, jams and syrups, wine or to add flavour to brandy.

We had the cultivated versions – deep pink and white - as small trees growing up the side of the driveway ... must have been terrible for my mother to keep tidy with all the prickles!  They did look glorious when in full flower.

Common Hazel - from Thome,
Flora von Deutschland, Osterreich
und der Schweiz, 1885
The tree also has more practical uses as its berries are thought to benefit the heart and lower blood pressure – plenty of research is being done.

Hazel trees – give us wonderful hazel nuts ... granted we share them with garden friends such as squirrels and dormice ... and chocolate – but we know where that deliciousness goes ... down little red lanes!

In days gone by – stocks of hazel nuts were taken on board ships to add to the mariners’ diet.

The Romans cultivated hazelnuts ... the Kentish cobnut only being introduced in 1830 ... yet the recent discovery of large-scale Mesolithic nut processing, 9,000 years ago, was found in a midden on the island of Colonsay in Scotland ... showing hazels are definitely a native tree.

Holly for festive cheer
Holly – a festive tree to cheer our houses up with the contrasting shiny green leaves and red berries –it too acts as a deterrent with its spiny leaves.

This tree has a longer lineage ... going back into Gondwana land days – before my time!  Fossils have shed a great deal of light on the holly’s  travels through the epochs ...

Early bagpipes were made from the wood of holly trees.

Rowan and a bunch of berries

The Rowan is a tough tree that dares to grow where others cannot ... in pagan days it used to be planted near houses to ward off witches – but wherever we find it, it looks so attractive in the landscape with its wealth of red berries ... from which it gets its old name of “bird catcher”.

Walking sticks were often made from Rowan.

Silver birch stand
I love our next tree – the Silver Birch – the fast growing papery barked white tree found in our landscapes.  This was my fun place to be as a tree climbing youngster – up amongst the branches, swaying with the wind ...

Catch your haddock and smoke it amongst the silver birch embers, while supping silver-birch wine ... then tell your sagas under this pioneering tree so often planted to stabilise the land.

Lime tree in flower

Small-leaved lime is one of our most important native trees – it is considered an indicator of ancient woodland, which is becoming increasingly rare.  A valuable mono-floral honey is produced by bees using the trees.

Perhaps the lime’s best known use today is for its beneficial herbal linden flower tea used as an anti-inflammatory in a range of respiratory problems.

This environmental art installation in Belgium,
at the Wenduine Dunes, known as "Sandworm"
is made entirely of willows
Our last mentioned native tree is the Willow – fast growing with so many varieties to choose from: weeping, goat, twisted, even cricket bat trees.  They are so graceful as they sway in the breeze, catching the music of the wind through their weeping branches.

Willows survive in the dampest of places – often being found in water-logged riverside gardens and parks.  As we planted eucalypts ... the Australians planted willows – this now considered invasive species is being removed.

Pollarded willow with a crop of
withies ready for harvesting
A Withy or withe is a strong flexible willow stem that is typically used in thatching as a deterrent to woodworm.

Withes are traditionally used to mark minor tidal channels in British harbours and estuaries.  In many places they are still in use today and are often marked on navigation charts ... as reflected in the name Wythenshawe, outside Manchester.

Yew - showing 27 annual growth rings
- dark heart wood, pale sapwood

Going on around the spectacular events of the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and shortly the Paralympics ... Britain has been showcasing the Cultural Olympiad ...

... where the Olympic Park with its trees will provide the structure for an amazing art work ... which will mark the passing of time through their annual ring growth – an open air art work for our descendants to view in this new park.  A post to follow ...

Aspects of the British Countryside my 2011's A - Z Challenge:

My blog post on A is for Ash - 2011's A - Z Challenge 

Another post I wrote on Hazelnuts:  Witches, Hazels and Helmets

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Linda said...

A fantastic post, Hilary, honoring your native trees. I love trees of all kinds, so it's interesting to find out what grows where, natively. One of my favorite trees growing up was the Chinaberry. Which, as I just looked up is non-native to the U.S. and on the invasive list. It also says the berries (non-edible) were poisonous. Who knew? I just liked to climb in them.

Betsy Wuebker said...

Hi Hilary - Very interesting. I paused at Hawthorn, which we consider invasive in the Twin Cities. Hacking away at it for years is something I don't miss. :)

Like you, I am very fond of silver birch and some of its more ornamental derivatives. When the leaves first come in, the pale yellow green is so gorgeous against our bare landscape in the North.

We're so fortunate to have these beautiful aspects to our landscape. Thanks!

Jo said...

I remember climbing hazelnut trees at school in Norfolk. Lovely and interesting blog. I was only saying the other day that I really didn't know a lot about trees.

Old Kitty said...

I remember on one of my very long walks stumbling across... a walnut tree!!! We knew it was a walnut tree because it was heavy with the fruit! My first and last ever walnut tree in the Herts countryside! And we scrumped as much as our rucksacks would take! But I know it's not native!

Take care

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Linda - we assume so many things don't we .. it's there and therefore must be local - but no, brought in by those explorers. Edible .. I did learn that the yellow laburnum is very poisonous - and therefore don't eat it ... must have been drummed into me. Glad you were a tree climber too ...

@ Betsy - the link to the blackthorn and hawthorn is an American site .. I think. Hacking away at Hawthorn ... must be quite a chore, so I'm sure you were relieved.

Aren't the silver birches wonderful - I love their trunks against the bare landscape and can imagine their early leafings .. cheering us all towards Spring ..

We are very lucky with our landscapes - just stunning views so often ...

@ Jo - our hazel trees were hedge like .. so not really climbable .. but we did eat the nuts. Looks like I've added a little to your knowledge base ..

@ Old Kitty - oh we had a walnut tree at home, and we pickled our walnuts ... I do love them! Equally now I love the fresh ones ..

... well done to you for scrumping the nuts to take home .. bet they were delicious. You're right about the walnut not being native .. it came all the way from Persia ..

Cheers Linda, Betsy, Jo and Old Kitty .. great to see you - Hilary

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I am a tree-hugger and so I loved this post! We just sold our home where my husband and I had planted over 20 trees and shrubs. We moved to our current home last year and have already planted 4 trees and 5 shrubs. But they are so tiny! I miss my trees more than anything.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Karen .. that's a great comment - reminds us we all love trees .. I hope your trees grow fairly quickly .. and those shrubs fill out soon. Well you've done exactly the right thing in getting out and planting new trees ... it'll be wonderful to watch them grow...

Cheers Hilary

Jo said...

Ah Hilary, pickled walnuts, haven't had those in years. Got my taste buds going.

Diane said...

What an interesting post. We have an oak in our garden, also a hazel and some holly. My favourite of all these I think is possibly the Rowan it is so pretty, sadly we do not have room for one here. Too many fruit trees which are though always welcome. Have a good day Diane

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Your mention of the oak tree brought to mind The Charter Oak, in Flagler Beach, FL. A relative lived nearby and took us to see it.

It has stood hundreds of years. I have a picture of us standing in front of the massive trunk.

Thanks for bringing back some fond memories.

writing and living by Richard P Hughes said...

I must admit that you know more about trees than I do.

Unknown said...

I love trees but I didn't know there was so much to learn. Thanks for this informative post.

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,
Sorry I've not been visiting lately. I was away and resisted going on a computer.
Anyway, marvellous posting. Yes, a 'treemendous' posting. And speaking of the native trees you note, I always associate Britain with a weeping willow near a gentle river.
A very informative posting, Hilary. Thank you.
In kindness, Gary.

Marja said...

Oh I love trees In Holland the willow was my favourite, with her long hair hanging over the river.
We made little puppets from the acorns from the oak. Here in NZ in the botanical gardens we've got many huge old trees. I love them

Gattina said...

I am not a specialist in trees, but it's true I noticed some which are not growing here ! The grass is different too, and the potatos have another taste due to your special soil. I didn't know about the Sandworm thanks for the tip, next time I go to the sea I'll go go Wenduine, it's not far from here only around 150 km.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jo - pickled are so delicious aren't they.

@ Diane - I was thinking about you and the weather .. it looks as though it is so hot in France at the moment.

Your fruit trees sound good and they have lovely delicate flowers, then that amazing fruit - I'd be happy too.

@ Susan - the oaks can get massive girths .. and delighted this post brings back memories for you of The Charter Oak in Flagler Beach, FA. I have a similar experience with a Baobab in Rhodesia ...

@ Richard - the British ones anyway!

@ Clarissa - trees have amazing attributes .. I'd love to know more in due course ...

@ Gary - I hope you had a lovely time in Cardigan .. and well done for resisting any form of compute!

Certainly there are plenty of weeping willows around and they do make such pretty sights in the landscape .. and by the tinkling brook.

@ Marja - the willow does look like it has long hair hanging down - good description. I was never very good at crafting things .. Botanical Gardens though are always beautiful aren't they - and reminds me I must visit ours.

@ Gattina - it's a treat seeing different countries and checking out their plants and trees etc .. but I agree our potatoes are delicious aren't they.

If you get to see the Sandworm .. I'm sure you'll let us know and show us some photos ... that will be interesting ..

Cheers to you all - enjoy Friday and the weekend .. Hilary

Juliet said...

I feel like I've just taken an enjoyable forest walk, meeting many old friends. I've always loved these English trees. When I was a child, we had a holly hedge around our section, so holly is very familiar to me. When I've been in England I've always loved finding the trees that have been so well-known from books. Thank you Hilary.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I love trees. My DH is a bit of a coneseur of trees. When I noted a place one day with the driveway lined in Aspens, I said wouldn't that be nice at our place. He cringed and told me that Aspens are horrible with foundations, sidewalks and driveways. He said if we came back in a year or two the roots from those trees would be ripping through to the surface. I never went back to find out, nor did I plant any Aspens.

Great post, Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Juliet - thanks so much .. the walk through woodlands, does sound a lovely idea - and as you've mentioned they are like old friends we have had the pleasure of meeting through our favourite books books. Delighted too the post brings back memories of England ...

@ Joylene - you're very lucky if Mr NB can tell you about trees - love people with a wealth of knowledge .. and your description of Aspens and the horrors they can cause ...I wonder what did happen to that drive. Glad you didn't plant any aspens .. and found something more suitable - and no doubt just as pretty.

Cheers Juliet and Joylene - we're having a wonderful sunny day - bright sunshine and very warm .. gorgeous ... enjoy your weekends -Hilary

Annalisa Crawford said...

So much variety. I really shouldn't comment on this post because all trees look the same to me... but I expect they say the same thing about people.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Annalisa ... I'm quite sure the birds, bees and trees all talk about us - and we are a pretty motley lot .. all very similar ... aren't we ..

Never mind the trees .. you appreciate their shade I'm sure .. cheers Hilary

Deniz Bevan said...

Wonderful post, Hilary. I love learning more about trees. I hadn't known that about holly trees and bagpipes!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deniz .. you're right I hadn't known about bagpipes, centuries ago, being made out of holly ... so glad you picked that bit up ...

Cheers Hilary

A Lady's Life said...

I love all of these trees. I have been paying attention to nature these last years and I am completely amazed how important nature is to mankind. We must preserve it at much as possible.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi A Lady's Life - wise words ..nature is intrinsic to us humans and our ways .. it's wonderful being outside isn't it ..

Cheers Hilary