Festival of the Trees 32

Hello there. Welcome to the February 2009 edition of the Festival of the Trees, hosted with great pride by your humble treeblog. Take my hand, hold it tight; and walk with me through Festival Forest. Over there, do you see them? Photographs! And what’s that by yon grizzled oak? A poem? There, by that pair of silver birches – see those videos? And all about us the branches hang heavy with a fine crop of blog posts, ripe for the reading! Perhaps today I’ll be able to show you a bark rubbing - ah! Sorry for getting your hopes up: a bark rubbing has never been seen in this forest before...

Let us begin with a stunning winter photograph because after all, in Britain at least, we are fast in the grip of winter.

Lonely Frosty Tree by Nikki-ann of Notes of Life

The beautifully wintry Lonely Frosty Tree by Nikki-ann of Notes of Life.

The yew at Strata Florida Abbey is one of Caroline of Coastcard’s favourite trees. The ruined abbey, founded in 1164, is the traditional burial place of the great medieval poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, to whom there is a memorial beneath said yew. Also near the tree, which has been damaged by storms and struck by lightning, stands an unusual headstone marking the grave of a leg. The brilliant poem, Lament for a Leg, by John Ormond elaborates, and as the poem includes the yew – and did I mention it was brilliant? – I shall post it here in full (or rather, copy it from Poem of the Week):

A short service, to be sure,
With scarcely half a hymn they held,
Over my lost limb, suitable curtailment.
Out-of-tune notes a crow cawed
By the yew tree, amd me,
My stump still tourniqued,
Akward on my new crutch,
Being snatched towards the snack
Of a funeral feast they made.
With seldom a dry eye, for laughter,
They jostled me over the ale
I'd cut the casks for, and the mead.
"Catch me falling under a coach",
Every voice jested, save mine,
Henry Hughes, cooper. A tasteless caper!
Soon with my only, my best, foot forward
I fled, quiet, to far America.

Where, with my two tried hands, I plied
My trade and, true, in time made good
Through grieving for Pontrhydfendigaid.
Sometimes, all at once, in my tall cups,
I'd cry in hiraeth for my remembered thigh
Left by the grand yew in Ystrad Fleur's
Bare ground, near the good bard.
Strangers, astonished at my high
Beer-flush, would stare, not guessing,
Above the bad-board, that I, of the starry eye,
Had one foot in the grave; thinking me,
No doubt, a drunken dolt in whom a whim
Warmed to madness, not knowing a tease
Of a Welsh worm was tickling my distant toes.

"So I bequeath my leg", I'd sat and sigh,
Baffling them, "my unexiled part, to Dafydd
The pure poet who, whole, lies near and far
from me, still pining for Morfudd's heart",
Giving him, generous to a fault
With what was no more mine to give,
Out of that curt plot, my quarter grave,
Good help, I hope. What will the great God say
At Dafydd's wild-kicking-climbing extra leg,
Jammed hard in heaven's white doorway
(I'll limp unnimble round the narrow back)
Come the quick trumpet of the Judgment Day?

John Ormond, 1973

One of my own favourite trees is the lonely oak on Whitwell Moor, or as I’ve started to think of it as, the Lonely Oak. Growing happily beside a path, I’ve walked by this stunted English oak (Quercus robur) more times than I can remember, and I always stop to say hello. I suppose I only began taking notice of the lonely one as an individual two or three years ago, but I would have been past it even as a young child ont’ way t’ trig point. It’s a great little windswept tree.

The Lonely Oak at sunset.

The Lonely Oak at sunset (22nd January 2009).

From a favourite tree to a favourite tree-eater. Dave of Via Negativa profiles the North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) - replete with video of a porky pine troughing some eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)! I also heartily recommend his poem, Questions for the Porcupine.

Vicky of TGAW celebrates the fifth anniversary of the reloakation of Old Glory, a big old valley oak (Quercus lobata) in California. It’s an incredible story, and I’ll let Vicky have the telling of it; but if you haven’t heard about this before… prepare to be amazed! The Hertford Tree Memorial Park, the subject of another post at TGAW, is a place where trees are planted in the memory of late loved ones.

Four tree species are put under the spotlight in a quartet of spiffing posts: Seabrooke of the Marvellous in Nature handles the eastern white pine (Pinus strobes); Mary of A Neotropical Savanna takes on one of the autograph trees (Clusia pratensis); Zhakee of Sierra Nevada Ramblings addresses the California sycamore (Platanus racemosa); and Jennifer of A Passion for Nature has the eastern hemlock covered – aye, that old porcupine favourite.

Over at local ecologist, Georgia recollects her favourite trees, which range from fruit trees to baobabs. One of Karen of Rurality’s favourite trees is the monkey cigar tree (Catalpa speciosa), a catalpa with interesting seed pods. Karen also asks what the heck is that spongy black fungus?

Visit Drawing the Motmot for an extraordinary view from the canopy of the Amazonian rainforest, and then head over to the South Florida Watershed Journal where Robert shares what is really the opposite perspective of a different flavour of giant trees at Big Cypress Bend - one of only two stands of old growth cypress remaining in southern Florida. Also in the SFWJ: a short video of two pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) pecking a slash pine (Pinus elliottii).

Read about part of Bev of Journey to the Center’s special journey in return to the redwoods – part 2 and meet the totemic Corkscrew Tree.

My Bodhi by KGT of When I Wax

My Bodhi by KGT of When I Wax. A tree often in his dreams.

Here’s another poem, by Dave Lewis of the Welsh Poetry Competition. It is called Hope.

I went to the forest
To see what I could find.
I found a creature in the trees
Writing songs upon the leaves.
And his words were oh so true
And his words were oh so kind.

He told stories of Man's wars
He told stories of Man's greed,
But no one heard his lyrics
No one heard his cries.
The grown-ups wouldn't listen
And they told the children lies.
And all the time the forest
Was dying seed by seed.

Now the wind has blown like wintertime
And they've chopped the forest down.
The warnings and the prophecies
They're lost and dead and gone.
Except for this one precious leaf
Shouting its Autumn song.

The Lonely Oak shrouded in mist.

The Lonely Oak shrouded in mist (29th January 2009).

Susannah of Wanderin’ Weeta asks how do you recognise a healthy forest? One indicator is a large amount of dead and decaying material, which means nutrients are being recycled back into the soil to be made available for other organisms. Go and have a wander through the deadwood – and woodpecker peckings.

Eric of Neighborhood Nature looks to birds and trees for signs of spring. He uses the maple in the post’s photo to track the changes from summer to winter and back.

Gardners’ Tips gives advice on growing birch – especially silver birch (Betula pendula) – in the garden.

Adea amici degli alberi (Adea friends of the trees) shares a tree-lovin’ video, and Praveen of Tao of Simplicity shares a quote attributed to Ricardo Semler:

I once took a physics course, at the end of which the professor had only one question: How far can you go into a forest?

The correct answer was midway. Go beyond that and you are leaving the forest.

The Lonely Oak in summer.

The Lonely Oak in summer (12th August 2007).

That’s it for this month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees. I hope that your time was spent in an enjoyable manner, and that you found something interesting! Next month’s Festival will be hosted by Georgia of local ecologist. Send your submissions to info [at] localecology [dot] org, or use the online submission form. The deadline is the 27th of February.



And as we left the Festival Forest, we spied some thing take flight through the tangled undergrowth. Could it be…?

common alder bark rubbing

Common alder (Alnus glutinosa) bark rubbing (31st January 2009).


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