Hello and welcome to the first edition of the To The Trees newsletter, dedicated to exploring our local trees and landscapes.
Month-by-month we will explore the world of the trees of Avalon, I’ll include some of my own observations on the local area, some tree ID tips, a tree of the month, and we’ll chase rabbits down holes we’ve not yet imagined. I’ll also keep you informed about upcoming walks and workshops.
I encourage your contributions to the conversation, please feel free to leave comments, questions and your own tree images in the comments below, or join the To The Trees facebook group to interact with our growing community.
For a week over Christmas, I walked twice daily, in the morning and at sunset. It’s been good to get some clarity and start to plan for the year ahead. The brisk winter air allows for the imagining of new possibilities and a fresh vigour and optimism has come across my approach, encouraged by the gradually increasing light. The daffodils are already peeking their heads out, and there are snowdrops in the Abbey. But they are not the only ones to recognise the waning winter solstice.
The trees are busy preparing their catkins. Hazel, birch and alder are all displaying their tassels quite proudly at the ends of spindly branches. They look particularly pleasant silhouetted against the winter sky, the Alder on Chilkwell Street is doing particularly well, and has been selected as my tree of the month. The Glastonbury Thorns are showing their Christmas flowers while the common hawthorn still hang on to the remnants of last years berries. The tulip trees (a native of eastern North America), in the Abbey, are dropping their large seed pods, they are tactile, woody objects that break apart quite satisfyingly, into individual seeds.
A further item of interest is the string of eggs I noticed at the outcrop of Hawthorn / Elder / Mistletoe, in a field past the Tor. Pictured here, they are quite delicate things about the size of a pea. At first they seemed wet and jelly like, then they started to dry out and became crispier, the next time I returned they were gone, hatched or eaten. I have never seen anything like this and am yet to find someone who can tell me what exactly is going on here. My best guess is insect or spider egg, but they are rather large. Perhaps they are the spawn of an extraterrestrial being!
More observations from the fields and lanes of Avalon with the February full moon.
I love the alder at this time of year, it shows all its long, dangling male catkins, and the remnants of last years female flowers that turned to seed laden cones. It is the only native deciduous tree to form cones.
It has male and female flowers on the same tree (monoecious) and in late winter to early spring the alder’s male flowers elongate to 3 inches making them ready to release pollen. This particular tree has already grown it’s male catkins and pollination seems to be in full swing.
Catkins are the flowers of the trees in the betulaceae family, it might surprise some to know that trees like birch, alder and hazel, don’t grow their catkins in spring, but prepare them all winter so that they are ready for pollination in the spring.
The Alder loves the water, which raises questions about the positioning of this tree. There is no water visible above ground so this might suggest the Alder is attracted by some underground water source possbily the water supplied to the ponds in the Abbey from the Wells further up Chilkwell St.
More Alders can be found in the Chalice well garden, in the meadow near the silver birches. They are known as the bleeding tree as when cut they bleed a bright red sap. Alder is known as a protective tree, it often grows alongside willow and is said to be the masculne to the willows femine energy. It is very resistant to water, and often grows with its feet in the river, this makes it great for submerged woodworks as alder turns as hard as stone when submerged in water.
Tree ID Challenge
Four winter trees, 2 native, 2 non-native, silhouetted against the Avalon sky. Please send your answers, in clockwise order from top left, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt’s songs, as played on the tree walks, recorded for your enjoyment. With cover art from tree walker, Andrea Laker. Includes a Prayer for Avalon.
Thank you for enjoying the first edition of To The Trees. Number 2 will come with February’s full moon.