Monday, 27 September 2010


Today, while I was wandering around the allotment, looking for good ideas to steal, I came across a spindle tree dripping with berries.

It must be one of the most beautiful and delicate shrubs in our autumn hedgerows. My Collins Guide to British Trees describes it as "slender, sometimes spreading and rather twiggy".

In autumn the spindle dangles small sprays of pink four-chambered berries - not edible to us, but loved by foraging birds. "Delicate" is the perfect word to describe it's exquisite fruits, fine forked twigs and scattering of willowy leaves.

This particular spindle was dotted with outgrowths of pale green lichen on its outer twigs: the intricate miniature cauliflower heads in perfect harmony with the fragile beauty of the tree.

I don't think I'm even going to try to identify the lichen. It looks like the sort of undertaking which requires a microscope and a good lichen book, neither of which I have at home.

Does not knowing the names of things diminish our appreciation of them? I'm not sure in this case. I do enjoy walking through woods or along hedgerows, recognising the trees and shrubs by their names and knowing what their wood was used for or which berries and nuts are good to eat.

But sometimes I experience a greater sense of wonder, stumbling across a plant for the first time, my head filled with the input from my senses: sight, smell, touch, sound - rather than searching its memory cells for learned information.

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