Most of us can identify at least a handful of trees when they're in full leaf. But how many can you name when the leaves are falling and the trees are heading for their winter state? That's exactly the question that faced a group of intrepid and enthusiastic tree lovers recently, as they joined Paul for the first of his Tree Lore workshops. Here's what one of our Directors, Jo, learned.
Paul knows the Tir na Nog woods well, so he took us on a walk that introduced us to the trees on site. First was lime, rejuvenating itself even though the the main trunk had taken a tumble. The heart shaped leaves with their saw-toothed edge were still apparent, but we also examined the bark, which looked a lot like rope with tiny diamonds in it. Apparently, when the red buds appear you can eat them - and they taste a bit like peas!
Next, we visited ash, looking at their bunches of ash keys and nobbly twigs, before horse chestnut - the conker tree! - elder and sycamore. The tour took in the wonderful birch. Like lime, it has saw toothed leaves, but they're not heart shaped and are much smaller. The bark is also different - smoother and lighter in colour, although it wrinkles and cracks with age (don't we all?!). Next was oak, then hazel and hawthorn. Alder made an appearance, as well as beech, douglas fir, elm, hornbeam, and sitka spruce. And we even saw my favourite - the wonderful yew, with its dark, glossy, evergreen needles and bright red (deadly) berries.
Paul told us about distinguishing features of all these trees, what they look like at different times of the year, what they've been used for throughout the ages and, in some cases, how they've been used in mythologies from around the world. We all made notes, drew pictures and collected specimens. And - despite the wind, cold and rain - we had an amazing day. I, for one, am much more confident that I can represent Green Aspirations a bit more credibly now that I can identify at least some of the trees on site. I might just have to keep my Tree Lore notebook on me at all times!
Tree Lore will run again in the spring, and it will be a whole new experience to see the trees coming back to life. I can't recommend this workshop highly enough.