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