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The Tuesday tree: return of the living dead

May 17, 2011

Back in March, as you may recall, I showed you a ghastly old wreck of a tree, an ancient hornbeam that looked more zombie than living creature.

Well, I promised to show it again later in the spring, to prove that it is indeed alive. (Sorry, horror fans, if the title led you here under false pretenses: we are really talking about trees here, not the ambulant undead.) Here is the same hornbeam this week:

How innocent it looks now! The bleached expanse around it has become a meadow of wild flowers, and its deathly white trunk is hidden under a canopy of lacy green. Those scrabbly nests of twigs – remember I said they looked like they were made by a spider on caffeine? – have become green posies,

a 'nest' of leaves visible through the looser branches

and there are catkins dangling from many of the branches, as if to prove that the tree is in perfectly normal health, thank you.

And yet. I don’t know what it is about it but, standing under the reach of its livid white branches yesterday to take these photos, I found that this tree still really gives me the creeps. So if you don’t mind, I’m not going to make any more visits to it for a while – even for Dancing Beastie.


18 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2011 3:08 pm

    It really is a gorgeous tree

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 17, 2011 3:14 pm

      Ah well, I am glad that it has attracted one champion at least!

  2. Toffeeapple permalink
    May 17, 2011 5:10 pm

    Is it the covering of Lichen that makes it look so ghostly do you think? It is an odd colour for the trunk and branches but you have to admit that it looks marvellous dressed in its spring finery.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 17, 2011 5:28 pm

      As far as I can tell, the white is its normal colour, while the greeny-brown streaks are the lichen. It is an extraordinary tree that I can appreciate and admire, but it still unnerves me! What I can’t capture in a photograph is its tremendously strong presence.

  3. May 17, 2011 8:41 pm

    Quite extraordinary, it’s not giving up. I know what you mean; it’s quite ugly, with its whiskers and growths but you have to love it for what it’s seen!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 17, 2011 10:36 pm

      Yes, I guess it must be full of entish wisdom.

  4. May 17, 2011 10:18 pm

    NOT a horror fan, so I hesitated to visit in case you had somehow deviated.
    I can believe that this tree has a strong presence. We should try to retain that sensibility. (no, I’m probably not making sense – just finished an evening of work after a long day of work !)

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 17, 2011 10:41 pm

      Sorry about that! I’m not a horror fan either. (Hey, I even get scared by an old tree.) I think I do know what you mean. It’s about being open to intuition, rather than dismissive of feelings that don’t immediately fit into a ‘sophisticated’ urbanized outlook. Hmm, don’t think I’m making sense either.

  5. May 18, 2011 6:46 pm

    Well it does look beautiful in it’s spring finery, but I know what you mean about a presence…. wonder what secrets it holds….

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 18, 2011 11:15 pm

      Indeed. Trees live in a sort of parallel universe from humans, I suppose. Their timescales and values are quite different.

  6. May 18, 2011 9:34 pm

    Multiple personalities I’d say ;).
    You won’t see me taking a nap underneath it!
    Are they always this…eh..fingery?

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 18, 2011 11:17 pm

      Oooh, no, I’d NEVER go to sleep under this one! I like your description, but I don’t know whether this is the way that other old hornbeams grow; this is the oldest and biggest I’ve ever seen. Old Father Hornbeam.

  7. May 19, 2011 2:59 am

    Beautiful in its rebirth! I can easily see that tree having a distinct spirit. Only read Tolkien in the last ten years, long after I should have, but old enough too to have had a lengthy exposure to folklore.
    About the funny clumps of leaves – is that mistletoe or is it a botanical oddity of the hornbeam itself?
    Amazing looking tree.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 19, 2011 12:42 pm

      The clumps seem to be part of the tree itself, although I do not know if this is a common occurrence in hornbeams. Mistletoe doesn’t grow in Scotland so far as I am aware, as it doesn’t like our climate. I have only seen it growing on oak trees in Oxfordshire.

  8. May 19, 2011 5:05 pm

    I’m a tree-aholic and my first response was, how can a tree cause that reaction? And then I thought about a hiking trail near my home. It’s extremely steep, the last 300 feet is climbing hand over hand up a chute, but at the top there is an amazing view of mountains in all directions. All the locals love that hike. I refuse to go up it. I’ve done it a few times, but there’s something about the trail that I respond to. It’s not fear of the climb because even the lower part gets to me. And trying to describe that negative reaction is difficult, even if I’m a writer and should be able to find words. And so I have learned to trust instincts. There’s a reason I should stay away from that trail. And maybe there’s a history, or something that tree has experienced (hope that’s not too woo-woo) that you’re picking up on. Or maybe it’s simply that your subconscious sees something like unsafe branches. Who knows how our brains work. I’d be skeptical if you felt this way about trees in general. But you as a tree lover makes me give credence to your response to this one. I’d suggest letting this old guy live out his retirement in solitude.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 19, 2011 10:55 pm

      What good sense you write. Perhaps we don’t need to over-analyse our instincts; just listen to them. I will keep a respectful distance of this tree from now on, I think.

  9. May 19, 2011 6:03 pm

    What an amazing transformation!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 19, 2011 10:56 pm

      It really is an annual miracle, isn’t it.

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