My poor birch, the tree I am ‘following’ once a month, is blowing all over the place. And that’s although the storm we are having at the moment scarcely merits the description compared to those we endured over the winter, with 108mph gusts and floods and railway lines being washed away. I am amazed at how resilient the three birches are proving to be, even though the bigger two are now substantial. They just bend and lash about and hang on in there. It helps that there’s no direct threat from the sea – happily I’m on the 100m contour line – but they do cope extremely well with being in the direct route of Irish Sea gales.
The contrast between them and the evergreen trees can be seen very clearly now the birches are in full leaf. This is my followed birch, the baby one, zoomed up against the Western Red Cedar which is diagonally behind it:
It’s probably just as well that the other WRC was taken down a couple of years ago; this poor thing does look embarrassed at the state it’s in, and the other was in a much more prominent position.
The birches, on the other hand, are downright perky.
Lots of lovely fresh growth, looking fresher than ever in the drizzle and wind – I’m taking shelter under the WRC here, and ‘my’ birch is the smaller one in the middle, the furthest from the camera. The meadow is growing up around it, and though I am managing to maintain a clear circle at the base, it’s getting more difficult to do so. Especially as I decided not to mow the path which ran beside it, almost in a straight line on from the central path here. It was bumpy and lumpy and there were too many fritillaries to avoid, so that path is history now. This can make photographing the Chosen Tree a little awkward, but that’s nothing to the problems some of the people blogging around Loose and Leafy‘s tree-following meme are having.
And when I can get up close and personal, and when the tree isn’t lashing about like a demented Morris Dancer on speed, there have been changes. The catkins are now mostly over – thank heavens, I’ve been mainlining Ventolin – though there are still plenty of flowers:
and though the majority of the leaves aren’t quite as sparkly and new as they were (dur, obviously), there are still some unfolding – much to my delight. I think the fresh green of new birch leaves is one of my all-time favourite colours.
This is the time of year when birch leaves were traditionally gathered, dried and eventually made into a decoction and drunk as a herb tea (not recommended, btw) or used as a skin wash for eczema. That was tried on me by my grandmother, and the spot of eczema did vanish, but then it was only a minor problem anyway; I was lucky. There’s more evidence for birches being used medicinally to treat arthritis, but I don’t think I was the only victim of skin-problem ‘solutions’. It seems to have been a rural French standby, judging by some other people I know.
The bark, of course, has traditionally had many more uses and, as I noted when I started ‘following’ this tree, this one’s bark is an appealing shade of burnt orange. However, it was suggested by several people that this would not last, and indeed… look what’s happening:
Beneath the burnt orange is a paler, more tawny shade, like a fine old sherry – and beneath that is a silvery colour. Maybe it will join its compatriots and shine in the evening sun. Oh, I suppose it does that anyway (when we get evening sun, that is); it’s just different.
Associated wildlife, I’m afraid, is not that evident. As yet; things will improve as the meadow grows up and the wind dies down. At present the tree’s only visitors seem to be the Upper Garden Robin, who uses it as one of his/her many shouting-at-other-robins posts, and some blackbirds. The crows and jackdaws avoid it – it’s probably not stable enough or high enough for them to use it as a lookout, or the robin is really threatening – and I haven’t seen much sign of insect life. Yet. Yet…