Following a tree means observing and recording its changes throughout the year, and unless it is located nearby, or on a regular route, the enthusiasm to go and re-visit could soon wane. Moreover, something about the tree has to spark a connection in order to maintain interest. Last year I chose an aged Laburnum but it never aroused much enthusiasm, whilst its branches were too high to achieve close observation. After the summer, I stopped bothering with it. Shame!
This year I’m determined to make the right selection. Although in Central London, we are fortunate to have a vast number of urban trees, it makes pinpointing just one, rather difficult. I’ve scoured the streets, parks and squares within my thrice weekly, walking circuit around Bloomsbury. The choices were manifold but I was divining that magnetic pull a tree has on a beholder :
Finally I returned to Gordon Square where last year’s Laburnum is so far ignoring signs of Spring. Look straight ahead, past the elephantine beech, to the bench with tiny seated figures. There by the NW exit is the tree of choice for 2014
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Even were it not labelled, the tree would be identifiable by its distinctive smooth, grey fluted trunk resembling an up-ended fascis of long bones. A solid and substantial appearance, implied in its name: ‘horn =‘hard’ and ‘beam’ = tree in old English.
It is early Spring and an abundance of scimitar-curved, male catkins are on display. They are yet to open and individuate into bract and stamen, and since Hornbeam is monoecious, there will be female flowers before too long. These will emerge at the apex of a male cluster, to be wind-pollinated. And so begins the year of the Hornbeam.
In 2012, Crafty Green Poet followed a Hornbeam along by the river Leith, nr Edinburgh
Tree Following with Lucy: There will be a link box on Loose and Leafy on 7th of the month for 7 days. Every month!