Tree Following: Gotcha

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 :

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Finally I returned to Gordon Square where last year’s Laburnum is so far ignoring signs of Spring. common laburnum - Gordon SquareLook 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

hornbeam_gordon_squareHornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

click any image to start slideshow
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.

Useful Links:
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!

23 thoughts on “Tree Following: Gotcha

  1. Lucy Corrander

    Hurray! And here’s to hoping it keeps your interest for the whole year. It’s odd how we relate to trees. I tried not to choose the tree I’ve chosen – for one thing, its needles are far, far above my head and as you say, being able to get close to the leaves makes a lot of difference. But something drew me and, although I think it’s daft – I’m up for the challenge. I’ll enjoy learning about your hornbeam though. I think I’ve only been aware of hornbeams in Epping Forest where they are contorted into extraordinary shapes. And that was a long time ago and I may even have had the wrong tree!

    1. Laura Bloomsbury

      the great thing about getting stuck on a tree is how it trains us to see their likes everywhere. Hornbeams were often coppiced & are evident in ancient woods – will be looking out for them too! thanks for hosting this Lucy 🙂

  2. Laura if I show my tiny wee hornbeams what they can become I wonder if it will give them confidence, I’m interested in Lucy’s comment of ‘contorted shapes’ as that is what mine are,
    I am very interested in your choice of a Hornbeam, I hope it keeps your interest, I didn’t notice any catkins on mine but might take a closer look when the weather let’s me out,
    thanks for the meaning of the name, Frances

    1. apparently Hornbeam hedges grow quickly 🙂 also catkins can appear between spring to autumn (?) perhaps depending on how far North? Hornbeam also known as Iron Wood

  3. Nice one! Especially the wonderful trunk. You may need a ladder, though…
    I look forward to learning about it, as it’s not one I’ve ever seen in the flesh.
    All the best 🙂

    1. Laura Bloomsbury

      this one is not too tall yet so my camera can make out the lower branches without risking life and limb 😉

  4. What a wonderful selection of trees to choose from – I rather like the ornamentals in Red Lion Square! – but the hornbeam you’ve chosen is magnificent. We are spoiled for choice here in London! I haven’t yet written my tree following post but have been tempted by many trees locally (and that’s before I get onto Hampstead Heath!) … decisions, decisions. Looking forward to following this tree with your posts over the next year.

    1. Laura Bloomsbury

      hello Caro & look forward to seeing your London tree – Hamstead heath is like looking for a tree in a haystack 😉

  5. Great choice Laura, I know nothing about hornbeams, except that I love the way they develop those deep channels in the bark as they grow. Funny how some trees call to you and others don’t, some alchemy of shape, bark, position, probably childhood associations?

    1. Laura Bloomsbury

      Janet, I just liked the name – reminds me of sun & light in beams! Intrigued by the bark and glad to see you have a tree too!

  6. A lovely choice of tree. Such gorgeous bark. I’ m very impressed with your changing pictures, I can’t imagine how you do it. Very impressive.

  7. I have always loved hornbeam and we have a hedge which is very fine. Hedges though do not show that wonderful structure of the trunk. I had a go last year too and lost interest fairly quickly. This year I am trying again. I am hoping that Lucy’s 7th of the month will give me the kick I need to make it happen.

    1. Laura Bloomsbury

      lets hope we can keep the enthusiasm going in 2014 – you’ve no excuse now since the Hawthorn is so close by!

  8. I look forward to following your hornbeam and comparing it to mine! (Thanks for the link!). This year I’m following a larch.
    Juliet (aka Crafty Green Poet)

  9. Pingback: Tree following 2: No, it’s NOT a beech… | The Squirrelbasket

Comments are closed.