I think, like much of Britain’s flora and fauna (and its human population), my tree is suffering from the late arrival of warmer spring weather as not much has changed with it during March: the leaf buds haven’t developed much further, no leaves have burst open, and it’s still looking very skeletal. Warmer temperatures are forecast for next week so, fingers crossed, that gives everything a kick-start.
In the meantime, I thought I would give you a little taste of the delights to come later in the year. While I don’t have any photos of my tree in summer green, I do have a photo, taken in October 2015, of this incredible Acer pictum (Acer mono) resplendent in its glorious autumn finery. Something to look forward to, for sure!
The name ‘bryony’ is entirely appropriate for this plant as it comes from the Greek word bruein which, apparently, means ‘to be full to bursting’. However, though the berries of Black bryony (Tamus communis) are cherry-red and luscious-looking, please don’t be tempted to eat them as they are deadly poisonous.
There are, in fact, two plants with the bryony name in Britain, White bryony and Black, but they are not part of the same plant family. Rather surprisingly, Black bryony is the only member of the yam family to grow here but, again, don’t be tempted to eat its roots. In spring and summer, Black bryony’s long tangling vines can be found rambling over, under and through the shrubs and bushes of hedgerows and scrub-lands, and in autumn and winter, though the heart-shaped leaves brown and drop, the masses of red berries brighten up the countryside for many months.
There is so much to love about autumn: it’s as if Nature is an award-winning play, and all the trees are her actors. She’s coming to the end of another successful season, it’s the last grand finale, the players are dressed in magnificent richly coloured costumes ready to take their final bows before a rapturous audience amidst great critical acclaim … and then the curtain comes down for another year.
I’m still pretty useless at identifying native British trees: I can get most of the more common big species, like Oak and Ash and Beech, but I probably couldn’t identify a Spindle if you paid me … except at this time of year. Because in the autumn, the Spindle (Euonymus europaea) lights up in psychedelic colours that remind me of a dress I had in the ’70s (yes, I am that old!).
The Spindle (so named because its wood was used to make the spindles used to hold wool and in spinning) has fruits that are hot pink. And not only that … when those fruits open up, the seed inside is bright orange. It’s such an outrageous colour combination that it makes me wonder why it’s so very bright … and I haven’t found the answer. I thought perhaps the orange was a way to attract birds and many websites say the seeds are eaten by small birds like Robins and Tits but, when I google images, I can’t find any showing birds actually eating them. The other alternative is that the colour is a ‘don’t touch me I’m poisonous’ warning – and certainly the fruits are poisonous to humans but to birds? If anyone has any information about this eye-popping colour combination, I’d love to hear it. Meantime, put on your shades and check out these psychedelics, man.