Rowan Trees

There are three young and thriving Rowan trees in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve. They are also called Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia). They looked particularly attractive the other evening with their heavy load of creamy white blooms So many small flowers arranged into generous clusters to entice bees and insects. The trees should also provide a plentiful supply of berries for the birds in autumn. We had one of these rowans in our suburban front garden when I was a child. My mother used to recount the panic she felt when she parked my pram in the shade of the tree and later discovered me eating the berries. I was rushed to the doctor but there was no problem, the berries are edible, and sometimes made into jelly but are very sour.

The Holm Oak

Permanently overshadowing the path that leads from Herrison Hall to the cricket ground is a massive tree that goes mostly unnoticed. It is not glamourous when compared with the showier specimen trees nearby. No brightly coloured leaves or flowers. It is a Holm Oak or Holly Oak (Quercus ilex) with dark green, leathery-textured leaves more like holly than the normal appearance of other species of oak; and these leaves are not shed en masse in autumn but each one lasts about four years before falling at any time throughout the year.

This evergreen species is a native to the Mediterranean region and has become naturalised in Britain. Thought to have been introduced in the 16th century as an ornamental tree, it is well adapted to hot dry summers because its thick waxy foliage cuts down on water loss. At this time of year it produces male and female catkins which often go unseen until strong winds bring them down to litter the ground. This year flowers are still in bud compared with last year. Strangely, I have never seen any acorns in autumn on this particular tree. In the south of England Holm Oaks are amongst the largest and can reach a height of 80 feet with a broad spreading crown, and may live to be 250 years old.

These pictures were taken of the same tree at various times, at different angles, over the last 18 months.

Red Horse Chestnut

There is a group of tall elegant trees at the east end of Greenwood House near to the converted church. They have similar leaves to the horse chestnut but not identical. The flowers also resemble the horse chestnut and are clustered like decorative candelabra on the branches but are a beautiful deep pink with yellow patches. I noticed years ago that the fruits (conkers) from these trees were mostly ovoid and spineless, and were empty and sterile. I wondered what variety they were and had previously concluded that they were probably Indian Chestnut Trees. Now I think differently. They are more like Red Horse Chestnut trees which are a hybrid between a Horse Chestnut and a Red Buckeye. What ever they are they are exquisite.