Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Tree bark

I used to take tree bark rubbings when I were a nipper.  It was a great way to discover that the differences between trees is not confined to the shape of the leaf alone.  When I was walking with Tilly some months ago I passed the cherry tree shown below and thought how beautiful the colours were in the bark.  After that I really began to look at and appreciate the amazing variety of texture, design and colour in tree bark.  It seems to be stating the obvious in some respects but the diversity is quite extraordinary.  Here is just a handful of examples. 
The tree below is an old, local ash tree.  It is not showing any signs of ash dieback at the moment, and fingers crossed it never does.  It has a lovely pattern, a bit like honeycomb.

The next tree is beech.  The appearance of its trunk is a bit like elephant hide!  I always consider that I grew up under a beech tree.  There was a magnificent copper beech in our childhood garden in Hampshire.  We had a wonderful swing strung from one of its big, strong branches.  Underneath the tree in Spring there was a carpet of crocus and bluebells.  My sister was born on 1st May, at home, just as the tree was about to burst into leaf and was covered in soft brown-pink tassle flowers.  In Summer we would play in its dappled shade.  In Autumn we would throw ourselves into huge piles of golden leaves which my father had swept up, ready for a bonfire.  He would have to sweep them up again!  And in the Winter you could see the classic, beautiful skeletal shape of a beech. The tree is now just a memory.  Despite, or maybe because, of its size the copper beech was blown over in a gale back in the late 1980s.  I don't think it was the hurricane of 1987 but a year or so later.  Our family had long since moved from the property so I am not sure.  All I know is that the house no longer has the tree as its backdrop and it will always be the poorer for that. However that tree is as precious to me and my memory of childhood as a much treasured play companion.
This rich and vibrant coloured lichen is smothering an old elderflower bush.  
On the other side of the world, in small park in Armadale, Melbourne is this ridiculously photogenic tree trunk.  It is a gum tree.  There are 734 species of eucalyptus and I would urge you to check out Wikipedia's entry for eucalyptus.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Eucalyptus_species
The names given to this amazing array of trees are just fabulous.  They range from simply whacky to simply beautiful.  I find the peeling bark of the gum trees rather difficult to leave alone, partly because they create such lovely shadows, so I include four photos of the same tree trunk here, plus a couple more of another type of the species.  I regret I don't have the names of these two.

The eucalyptus below are known as mountain ash.  They are a far cry from our British Mountain Ash or Rowan!  These trees are giants, growing to absurd heights.  They have a tendency to just shed a branch which, falling from such a great height, can be dangerous, hence the nickname 'Dead Man's Arms'.  They also shed their bark in long curling ribbons and these peelings gather at the base of the tree, creating readymade kindling for the fires which allow the trees to naturally regenerate.  These trees are a bit of a liability because they also explode during the burning off process as they contain so much natural oil
This is yet another type of gum tree with a completely different craggy, shaggy bark
 and the Scribbly Gum which I saw in the Botanical Gardens in Coffs Harbour, NSW.
And lastly from Australia, the paperbark tree which I find fascinating!  It has layers and layers of paper thin sheets of bark and if you prod the tree trunk, it bounces back like a freshly baked sponge cake. 
I took this photo of a rhodedendron in a garden on the west coast of Scotland.  I thought the colour was wonderful and I loved the shine on the trunk.
Back home again and here is the bark of the Scots Pine with its beautiful subtle colours.

Of course trees are home to any number of folk.  Here's Owl, who hangs out around one of the sweet chestnut trees in the drive.
Oak trees have wonderful bark.  The one below almost looks like the craggy old crocodiles I saw in Australia last year.  

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