I’m guessing that often the posts I write on this blog are going to be about things I find frustrating. I suppose in a lot of ways, that’s only natural, at least for me. So I thought it would be nice to at least start with a short post about something that is wonderful and beautiful – The tree.
Trees are one of the last species to evolve from the plant kingdom, and if it’s right to see a hierarchy within life’s kingdoms, surely the tree sits on high. God’s magnificent masterpiece.
“All I ask for is a little space, sunlight, water and a few essential minerals that I can draw from the earth beneath, and I’ll just stand here, mighty and glorious”. What I admire most about trees is they’re not nasty. Most living things have characteristics or behaviours that are somewhat troubling for me? All that ‘tooth and claw’ stuff, parasitic tendencies, and quite a lot of selfishness? Trees aren’t like that though, they just produce oxygen so others may live, prevent landslides, and offer shade for all. Just generally helpful and nice really, we should look-up to trees.
It’s a bit of a cliché (pronounced – clee-shay), but my favourite tree has to be the grand old English Oak. In England, English Oaks are often found framed by an open landscape; a single, evenly formed tree, that demands your attention. On a warm Summer’s day, walking around and looking up at these vast, ancient wonders, is for me similar to that ‘insignificant’ feeling I get when looking up at a cloudless night sky.
I watched an interesting programme recently, about a year in the life of a single, mature English Oak, happily living in an Oxfordshire field. As you would imagine, there are many creatures that rely on the oak for their survival, most are harmless but some can be a threat to the tree. What was fascinating, was the tree’s ability to detect and react to defend itself against some of these threats. Certain caterpillar infestations for example, have the potential to seriously harm the oak, so the tree releases tannins (the same stuff found in tea) that make its leaves unpleasant to eat. Cleverly though, the tree doesn’t waste these defence resources unnecessarily, it only uses them when they’re needed.
Oak apples; I remember coming across these as a child and not really understanding the name – apples on oaks? Turns out these tiny ‘galls’ are the results of a parasitic wasp that lays its egg in the oak’s developing leaf buds. Interestingly, these galls were used as the main ingredient for making quality ink for hundreds of years, possibly dating back to Roman times. Iron gall ink, as it’s called, was highly valued for its permanence quality, and was used in writing many famous historic documents. The Magna Carta and the earliest known version of the Bible are just two such examples.
With mention of the Bible, I’m not sure it has much to say about trees, but as in the title of this post, god’s in there.