A followed tree gathers no whatsits


Sorry about the title, I’ve not had enough coffee yet. And I’m trying WordPress’s sort-of backtrack on image editing, so let’s see if it works…

As part of Loose and Leafy‘s tree-watching meme, I’ve been watching the smallest of my three birches, the one I usually walk past, the one that is (literally) overshadowed by its bigger cousins. Predictably, things are happening. Last month the leaf buds were showing not a hint of anything other than tightly folded covers; there were catkins, but they were short and stubby. First, the leaves began to peek out of the buds, starting a few days ago, and the catkins began to bend down…


and then the leaves suddenly unfolded completely, like so many bright green butterflies emerging, but it wasn’t just the leaves. There were flowers too:


In case, like me, you’ve not studied a birch tree this closely before, the two green spiky things are the flowers. I’m not using any of my gardening books; just my Collins’ Tree Guide, and I am learning quite a bit. I thought I knew trees. Hm…

Last evening the weather suddenly improved (it’s gone off again now), and the sun on the leaves made me realise just how much leaf the tree has put on.

sunny leaves

I’m afraid, however, that where the leaves come the catkins cannot be far behind. In preparation I have checked my asthsma puffers and got them up to date, because as I looked up and saw this,

eeek for asthsma

I realised I didn’t have long. Usually I’m OK – meadowsweet doesn’t grow much round here and that really brings on the wheezing – but there’s always that feeling of suspense. Especially as friends around me collapse in heaps. Birches are supposed to protect people from problems, not cause them.

I’m hoping I escape again this year, so that I can continue to enjoy the astonishing green of the baby birch leaves without pretending I’m on the Tokyo subway…

sweet leaf

(My iPhoto library is already packed with about 50,000 shots of leaves. I really must do some editing – but maybe what I really want, as a fibre person, is some fluff or wool in this colour. I wish I could achieve it with natural dyes, but I can’t. Khaki, I can do; bright, vibrant, fresh green I might actually want to wear – nah.)

This project is proving really interesting, making me shift my point of view. Normally at this time of year I concentrate on the meadow beneath the trees. Yes, I stop to appreciate the splendid green of the leaves, but it’s the daffodils, the primroses, the anemones, the fritillaries, the oxlips and cowslips which grab my attention more. Naturally I’m still admiring them, but flowers are show-offs – what was it someone said, Withnail‘s Uncle Monty I think, that flowers were just tarts for the bees?

long shot tree

My trees are no longer a backdrop. I am so glad that something is making me look up – and, after all, birches have flowers too.

Thanks to Loose and Leafy for hosting this meme.


30 Comments Add yours

  1. I find it’s fascinating – that photograph of the catkin, the leaves and the flowers. I found myself peering into the picture and being awed. I’ve not seen (noticed!) that combination before yet it’s happening every, every year.

    1. kate says:

      Me neither – it’s extraordinary, isn’t it? Looking but not seeing, that’s what I’m good at… and without the meme, I’d have gone on doing just that!

  2. Pauline says:

    Plants are wonderful when you examine them closely, I hadn’t noticed the flowers on my birch trees, the leaves and catkins yes, but it never dawned on me that there should be female flowers too!

    1. kate says:

      Aren’t they, though? A lesson for all of us, perhaps!

      (Er, nor me. And I swear I was listening when my Dad – a botanist as well as a mathematician – told me about how plants multiply…)

  3. julietwilson says:

    Lovely to see the catkins develop! One of my Botany lecturers used to say flowers were just tarts, he only liked grasses himself….


    1. kate says:

      Grasses – hmm, I’ve just dipped my toe into the world of grasses… he may have had a point (but I think grasses look best when set off by something flowering. Achillea, perhaps – those lovely flat heads…)

  4. Chloris says:

    I have several birches and I love them but I am ashamed to say that I have never looked at them closely in Spring when the leaves and flowers unfold. After looking at your photos I shall go straight out and look at them. Well, when it stops raining I will.
    I love the reference to one of my favourite films, Withnail and I.

    1. kate says:

      I hadn’t either, just brushed past and wheezed a bit. Just stopped raining here, but it looks as though it’s about to start again. Grrrrr. So glad I took the pics yesterday!

      Uncle Monty = God. Or Danny, purveyor of wond’rous substances…

  5. nice progress, yes along with buds and blooming trees comes allergies

    1. kate says:

      I’ve just been and updated my puffer – just in case… I use it so infrequently that I’d not realised it expired two years ago. Hmmm.

  6. Cathy says:

    Isn’t it lovely just noting these small changes – and then all of a sudden the trees will be smothered in green. Shame about the dye – presumably you have experimented?

    1. kate says:

      Isn’t it great? That’s why I love this thing – makes me really look. I’d have missed those flowers, else.

      (Dye – oh yes, and yet I like natural dyes and don’t really want to go down the acid dye path. But it is calling me… they don’t have to be unsubtle; there are some great dyers out there proving the point.)

  7. VP says:

    *rushes out and checks her birch trees for flowers* 🙂

    1. kate says:

      They’ll be there somewhere – thought mine had all dropped off yesterday, but they were hiding…

  8. Anna says:

    Hope that you are saved from the dreaded wheezes Kate. As an asthma sufferer I fully sympathise. Love that quote!

    1. kate says:

      Go Uncle Monty!

      Not too bad so far on the wheezing front, but I’m all prepared. Phew (gasp)

  9. That photo of the leaves and flowers is superb. You are further on than I am, there over on the coast. My birches are still bare as bare.

    1. kate says:

      Thank you – the birches only just got going in the last few days; if the tree following meme had been a week earlier it would have looked exactly the same as last month. I’m amazed you being that little bit further north has such an effect! (Or maybe the coast’s extra worth compensates for the winds, which we both share.)

      1. I think you are a little wetter (a lot of the rain drops its load on Snowdon I think) and a little milder than we are. It is often dry here when you on the coast get rain and wind but we are colder for longer. Odd, I suppose it is the gulf stream (reveals ignorance) but I associate it far more with north west scotland than with north west wales.

        1. kate says:

          I think you’re right. I’m sure the Gulf Stream affects the Irish Sea somehow, though like you I always associate it with Scotland (Inverewe gardens especially) and the west of Ireland. It’s certainly a little warmer on the coast. Generally a little warmer on the coast. Today is brrrrrrrrrr….

  10. alderandash says:

    Lovely photos! I totally agree, having a reason to really look is great – so often trees are the nice back-drop that I walk past. Until I joined in with this tree-following lark, I hadn’t noticed that my alder trees have weird little alien-looking ‘flowers’…Hope the wheezing isn’t too bad!

    1. kate says:

      It’s such a good idea, this tree following lark, and congratulations on your alder flowers!

      Wheezing defeated by breaks inside and huge qty of Ventolin. Hm…

  11. coastcard says:

    Thank you so much for your comment on my Tree Following post. I lived in Swansea for 20 years … so are interested to see that you are in Wales. I have learned so much about my own birch from your post! And what lovely photos … though I am so sorry to hear about the asthma.

    1. kate says:

      Birches are soooooo beautiful, aren’t they? And this is such a good exercise for making you look closely (even if you really should wear a face mask for about three weeks)… well, I should, anyway. First year for ages I’ve been this bad, possibly because I’m also just getting over the plague / flu which struck everyone round me…

  12. I adore birches, I have been watching my baby birches gradually leafing up, looking at yours makes me excited for years to come when mine are larger too. Nothing quite beats the thrill of seeing the fresh green leaves unfurling. I too have rather a lot of photos of emerging leaves, though not as many as I would normally have thanks to my stupid workload getting in the way of poddling about creating plant porn. Love the flowers, and must check up on my inhalers too, birches can be a right pain in the asthma, but I still love them.

    1. kate says:

      I never quite thought of birches like that, hee hee (as being a pain in the asthma), but you’re right. I’m not the only one complaining – I know people who are getting through inhalers like never before. It must be the birch pollen equivalent of a ‘mast year’.

      I’ve now been four days without a camera – new one due to arrive on Tues – and I ma having withdrawal symptoms. Well, I’m not without, I have got my Leica – but I’ve lost the knack of film, I think. Too used to the easy promiscuity of shooting on digital.

      1. “Easy promiscuity” – yes, that’s it exactly, but then you get the whole curating problem. And I am lousy at tagging. I always intend to, but I always seem to download photos in a rush… And then I told myself I would always tag when I uploaded to flickr… But I don’t…

        1. kate says:

          I think it must be an editing thing – work spilling over into everything else.

          Come to think of it, I suppose I approach my garden rather as I would an unruly manuscript and edit it too, only with a trowel. (Mind you, some of the manuscripts I’ve been sent have needed a trowel and, in one memorable case, a JCB – tooooooooo wordy by half).

        2. Tee her, I think my hairy bittercress could do with a JCB… I love the smell of the wild garlic too, and its not so bad invasive-wise at the moment… But then I used to think the same about g. mac.

        3. kate says:

          I have never thought that about G. mac. I thought I could control it. HAH!

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.