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Tuesday’s tree: the May Queen

May 4, 2010
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For this week’s Tuesday tree, there can really be only one choice. Looking out across the policies from the castle at this time of year, we see every tree turning green except one.

One turns white.

It is an ancient, misshapen gean, which keeps a low profile for eleven months of the year, outshone by its more picturesque neighbours. Reliably, on or about May Day year after year, however, this old lady doggedly puts on her finest white lace in which to receive the homage of her thralls.

Geans are very common in Perthshire: their white blossom can be spotted in many fields and roadside verges in May. We have others in the policies but this venerable old tree is, to me, the Queen of the May: I cannot imagine the month without her.

[Amendment: I had written that geans were part of the Mountain Ash family, but I am happy to have been corrected. They are in fact Wild Cherries, Prunus avium, as Katie at Vintage Squirrel has pointed out – and she ought to know, since she makes cherry vodka from them! I’d tried to check on the Interweb before writing the post, but the Scots name ‘gean’ brought no results. Having tried a bit harder, I’ve now found the relevant information on Wikipedia (of course). I do apologise for involving anyone else in my own befuddlement.]

12 Comments leave one →
  1. May 4, 2010 3:58 pm

    Locally (Nova Scotia, Canada) we have a large bush/small tree variously called an Indian Pear, shadbush, serviceberry or Saskatoon berry depending on where in Canada you live. It’s a bush/tree which can grow to 35 fet or so and bursts into white flowers just as the leaves are showing a copper green glint – from afar that gives the whole tree a pinkish blush. The rest of the year the tree/bush is very unassuming and even its berries being a dark blue are very discreet. Just now they are in blossom and the one in my backyard is a joy.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      May 4, 2010 4:06 pm

      It sounds a treasure. Can you eat the berries?

  2. May 4, 2010 5:39 pm

    As much as I hate to see the trees return to their mundane, unassuming clothes, I am glad they are there for their one bit of spring fling.

  3. May 5, 2010 10:11 am

    Oh what a lovely tree!
    It must be beautiful also in the evenings with all those white flowers. I guess they are shining like stars when the sun i setting. We do have them in Sweden too but it’s still a little early in the season for them to bloom.
    How about your headaches, I do hope you’re getting better and better!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      May 5, 2010 11:05 am

      Hi Agneta, yes, I love the long golden evenings of this time of year. It’s hard to believe we suddenly have this green landscape and long hours of daylight, when our last snow was only 2 weeks ago! And you still have the white blossom to look forward to! 🙂

      Not so many headaches now, thank you. I still need to take things gently but am beginning to feel more ‘normal’ (whatever that may be…).

  4. May 6, 2010 9:51 am

    Good morning and what a glorious sight! I must admit that my understanding is that a gean is a wild cherry. We have made cherry vodka using geans/fruit from this type of tree, in the same way & proportions that you would make sloe gin. It is rather delicious, particularly if kept for 2 or 3 years. The cherries are inedible as they are harder than sweet cherries, much smaller and very bitter.

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      May 6, 2010 1:07 pm

      Ahhh….of course, that makes sense! I’ve never been quite sure what they were and it’s hard to look something up if you only know its local name. Should have studied harder in biology lessons! The cherry vodka sounds fab, I’d never thought of it.

      I have duly amended the post!

  5. May 6, 2010 1:58 pm

    What a wonderful Tree! These Tree posts make me so happy; we really don’t have a great selection in St. Andrews, as I’m sure you remember. I could make the trek to the Tentsmuir Forest, but your trees are nicer!

    • dancingbeastie permalink
      May 6, 2010 3:27 pm

      Aw, I’m so glad that you are enjoying them. I love posting them too. Tentsmuir is a bit dark and Gothic, as I recall, though I only ever used to visit it on a barely-under-control borrowed horse going too fast through all those whippy branches.


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