Documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

THE NEW TREE - SAMBUCUS NIGRA

A few weeks ago, Laura at Patio Patch asked if I will be focusing on a new tree this year. I'd already been giving this some thought. My affection for 'last year's' tree (a Sycamore) began long before I gave it a special place on Loose and Leafy - so there's no way I'd let it out of view. However, it has the disadvantage of being so tall, all the 'action' happens high up. At ground level, shade and location mean its not a good place for other plants to grow . . . what little there is that struggles into life between its toes tends to get nibbled as soon as it shows its head above ground.

So a shift of focus might be a good idea.

A long time ago, I decided to 'follow' several trees and several patches of ground. All sorts of things went wrong - branches were lopped, the undergrowth was cut back, little plants died in drought or were trodden on - other plants caught my attention! In other words, it didn't work. None the less, there's an elder that has kept my interest all the way through. It's a scraggy thing - hardly a tree at all and only specially noticeable because it's bulked up by being part of a small clump. And the clump is both extra-noticeable and extra-easily-ignored because it is almost enveloped in blackberry and ivy. (Some of the recent photos of ivy berries were taken there.)

So, without abandoning the sycamore, let's shift focus and keep a little more of a conscious eye on the Elder - Sambucus Nigra.

It will be an incredible contrast. While the leaves of the sycamore are 'up there' and almost invisible (so high are its trunks before there are branches) the elder is definitely eye-level. And where the vegetation round the sycamore is sparse, so many plants like to live by and on and over the elder, it is sometimes hard to see it!

Deep breath . . . and a little fanfare . . . 
Tarantara!
and we approach the elder . . . through January gloom!


It's on a path we've met before - an old railway line that has been re-surfaced for pedestrians and cyclists.

There's the clump, up ahead on the left. (Further ahead still, on the right, you can see a group of Holm Oaks (Quercus Ilex)).

And we arrive.

For much of its route, the old railway runs along an embankment so, although the tree is easily accessible from this side, there's a quite a steep slope on the other.

Photographs can give the wrong impression of size. The elder is the wonky tree on the left. The little path which runs beside it is nothing more than an animal track. Maybe children push through from time to time. I'm not sure. Dens along here are not entirely out of fashion - though their occupancy seems to be very short - no sooner are they made than they are abandoned.


This is the foot of the tree - red shoots already showing. (I've heightened the contrast so you can see the patterns in the bark.)

Because the elders here are tightly packed, I'm not going to be too particular about which branches belong to which particular tree. We'll take the clump as a unity.


An untidy one!

Useful Link

The Woodland Trust has an interesting page about the Elder HERE
with information botanical, historical and folkloragorical.



'Festival of the Trees' has now become 'Treeblogging'.
'The Tree Year' has come to a stop - or has it?

12 comments:

Mark Willis said...

Are you planning to harvest its flowers and/or berries?

Lucy said...

Not really. I don't drink alcohol (when I did, though, elderberry wine was one of the nicest of the home-made varieties). You can fry the flowers in batter but they are more interesting than tasty. I tried making elderflower cordial once and it went off - which is sad 'cos I like it a lot, especially when cold and mixed with fizzy water. What I have found, and generally do a few times during the autumn, is that a just a few elderberries included with blackberries when cooking them, adds an interesting depth to the flavour.

Toffeeapple said...

Elderberry Jelly is good too, either on toast or added to gravies. It is an excellent thing for your immune defence, especially if you have another go at the cordial.

Forest Keeper said...

In never knew that this tree had such an interesting folklore behind it.

Kitty said...

Elderberry jelly is really nice - especially with some of the flowers sprinkled through it. I was out on Thursday collecting tree twigs for my last ever university assignment - a herbarium of trees in winter (a great one to end with, I think!) so I got properly into a hedge to take elder and hawthorn cuttings, and pictures of their bark. I got a lot of odd looks from passers-by :) Good luck with following the elder! They're certainly interesting characters; very pretty at times, a bit spooky at other times..

Ronnie Tyler said...

Several years ago I bought a small Sambucus Nigra from B&Q plants for £6.99. It now a fabulous tree! Although it is bare and scraggy at the moment, when it is in full leaf and flower I love it. Last year I pruned it a little too much and thought I had killed it. Although I had very few flowers and subsequent berries it more than trebled in height and stands about 12ft now. So there will be an abundance of elderberries this year I hope.

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Lucy I love this elder and all its untidiness..spectacular tree

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

I love Sambucus nigra--mine is tiny and in a holding spot int he garden. It should read this for growing inspiration! P.S. We Americans call it Elderberry.

elizabethm said...

I love the moss on the branches Lucy. We have loads of elder up here but our drier windier climate might account for no moss. I am looking at a year in the life of a horse chestnut so will be interesting to run your blog and mine side by side.

Country Mouse Studio said...

Incredible character in the shape, bark etc

Pat Tillett said...

Very nice! Not only great photos, but I learned about a new tree as well!

PatioPatch said...

Lucy, am looking forward to another year with your tree. I'm glad there's a few of us continuing the tree year tradition into 2012. Wondered if you might be hosting one instead?! With or without Mr Linky, a same time of the month posting will give the rest of us a prod.

Elders remind me of childhood and scrabbling through just such narrow paths to be overwhelemd with the ododur of the leaves as I crushed on by.