Thinking about trees
I've been thinking about trees a lot lately: partly because it's National Tree Week currently, but mainly because they've featured prominently on my walks over the past few weeks.
It's been a spectacular autumn and even now there are still a few leaves left providing a last shot of colour to brighten the first few days of winter. When they're gone, their structural forms will still be there, quietly doing their thing and helping to lift my mood. There is much to be grateful for in their sturdy presence.
I've said before we're blessed with whoever selected the trees for our estate and I was pleased to find Chippenham now has its own Mr Treeman again. He's new to the job as the town council has only recently taken over the management of our open spaces from the county council and NAH found him surveying the trees by us earlier this week.
I hope he approves of the choice trees we have alongside the usual suspects. I made my own discovery a couple of months ago in the shape of several trees like the one above, spectacularly laden with fruit. I've always thought these were hawthorns when they're in blossom, but I was intrigued by this very different looking fruit from the usual haws I see at the side of our garden. The leaves are quite different too and look more like apples.
I thought at first they must be one of the smaller fruited crab apples, but a closer look revealed the tell-tale sign which gives away their true identity. They are indeed hawthorns, but not the usual native one seen on our streets and countryside. Some wickedly long thorns amongst those leaves pin point it as a cockspur hawthorn, aka Crataegus crus-galli. This one hails from Canada and North America and judging by the number of squirrels and birds clattering through the fruit, it meets with their approval for an autumnal feast. Their abundance lasted long after the native haws had disappeared too, thus helping to keep the local wildlife well fed.
After two decades of growth, this is a medium sized tree of around 4 metres and apparently they grow slowly to double that size. The ones on our estate have been crown-lifted which means those viscious thorns are well out of reach and thus safe for public areas.
It just goes to show we should never take our more familiar surroundings for granted. Alongside the wildflower discoveries I've made this year, it's great to find my shrunken Lockdown world still has plenty of surprises hidden up its sleeve.
What local discoveries have you made this year?