Welcome to the second edition of the To The Trees newsletter, delivered each full moon.
Imbolc arrived, and with it, a renewed sense of purpose and a clarity of vision. I seem to be partially emerging from hibernation, slowly awakening to the approach of spring-time. I am enjoying the growing light and the gradually increasing hum of the hedgerow.
This month has been our busiest yet, with over 50 people joining events so far this year. We had our first Tree School, winter tree identification workshops on Wednesdays, and these will continue throughout February, changing to Spring Tree ID workshops in March. We learned how to identify the ash, oak and beech, using creative techniques to aid in learning.
I am encouraged by the positive attendance and feedback and so happy to be facilitating deeper connection and knowledge of nature. All the students passed with flying colours and advanced on to the second level which looks at hornbeam, maple and horsechestnut.
Many trees seem to have already decided it’s Spring. On a recent trip to Wells, I noticed the yew trees in full bloom. Yew trees fascinate me, they connect me with something deep, endless and unknown, they remind me of the twelfth house in astrology, something to do with collective consciousness, and darkly cast shadow.
This picture shows the male yew in full bloom. Their tiny globe-like flowers release pollen on the breeze, in doing so, they slowly reveal the delicate underlying structure of the flower, just visible in this image. Yew trees are dioecious trees, meaning they have male and female flowers on different trees. If the pollen from a male tree encounters a female tree then it pollinates and fertilises the female flower. Once the female flower is fertilised it produces the aris, the conspicuous red berry, which contains a seed. Birds eat the fleshy outer covering, which unlike the rest of the tree is not poisonous, and discard the seed to propagate the next generation of yews.
Walks by myself have been few and far between, but I managed to get out on a couple of mornings this week for hour-long strolls around the lanes. Bulwarks Lane is home to many woodpeckers. This week, I watched three fighting over territory around the old oaks. It was a raucous affair that ended in each taking a perch on a nearby tree and hammering at one another in call and response.
Tree of the month – The hazel at the foot of the Tor.
Some hazels just can’t help themselves! This one is putting on a good show this year with it’s abundance of male catkins. You can find it at the foot of the Tor, to the left of the front gate as you enter.
Some hazels produce few catkins, this one seems to have a “mast year”, an abundance of male catkins dancing in the breeze, like little lamb tails.
Hazel has male and female flowers on the same tree (monoecious) and in late winter to early spring the hazel’s male flowers, the obvious yellow catkins, elongate to 2-3 inches making them ready to release pollen on the wind. The female flowers are quite different, one must look very closely to see their little pink tufts of hair protruding from bulb-like buds, as in the image below.
Once pollen arrives at the female flower, a process takes place that is quite different from other trees. For many flowers, fertilisation directly follows pollination, but for the for hazel, the development of its male catkins and the eventual production of hazel nuts can be nearly a year apart. Once the female flowers have received pollen, they retreat and appear to remain dormant for the rest of Spring and most of the Summer. The flower is not fertilised until the later part of summer, when the necessary processes are completed and the tree starts to produce the little clusters of hazel nuts into autumn.
On the theme of hazels, I keep spotting hazel with red catkins as opposed to yellow. I understand them to be Corylus Maxima, often called “Red Filbert”. They are cultivated for ornamental purposes, appearing mostly in gardens, their catkins are dusty pink instead of pale yellow.
Tree ID Challenge
Four Winter / Spring 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.
To The Trees E.P.
Matt’s songs, often played on the tree walks, recorded for your enjoyment. With cover art from tree walker Andrea Laker. Includes a Prayer for Avalon.
Let’s walk to the trees!
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.