Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fairy trees

Fairy tree

As you travel through Ireland, you will often see small, gnarled trees or bushes, hawthorn (also called whitethorn), standing alone in a field or by a road. These are fairy trees. Don’t mess with them!

People who believe the old Irish lore won’t cut down or harm these trees, and don’t take kindly to being mocked for it. “In Ireland, if the three fairy trees, Oak, Ash and Thorn, grow together, it is particularly auspicious, and this is venerated even more than the single tree.”

Apparently, if you touch or damage a fairy tree, you risk bad luck or the unwanted attention of the Sidhe (say "shee"). Like standing on a hill in moonlight, you could be sucked into the magical world of the Sidhe, never to be seen again. “This is very old Irish folk superstition, although there have been documented cases of strange and somewhat frightening things happening to those who violated a fairy tree.”

If you doubt the power of belief or the power of fairy trees, here’s a short article that might change your mind: http://www.irelandinpicture.net/2010/04/fairy-tree-that-delayed-motorway-ennis.html

Hawthorn identification (Posted by James Kilkelly in the Irish Gardeners.com forum)

“Whether you fall under the heading of hedge planter or fairy hunter, here is how to identify our native hawthorn, when out and about. A bushy tree, hawthorn grows on average, to a height and spread of 6 meters.

Unlike blackthorn, whose stems are dark, the stems of hawthorn are light grey turning to a pinkish brown color with age, which is also when character-filled cracks start to appear up along the trunk. Most of the young twigs sprouting from the tree emerge red before going through these color changes. The glossy green leaves are between 20 to 30 mm long and are divided into 3, 5, or 7 deeply cut lobes. The tree comes into leaf at the end of March.

Hawthorn is in flower from May to June with 5-petalled white flowers, which unfortunately have an unpleasant smell. You see, up close, the flowers have a faint scent of rotting meat; this allows pollination of the flowers by flies rather than the bees, which are not active in early spring, Hawthorn’s blooming time.

Hawthorn is all around us in the countryside, so if you live there or have spent some time there without being put off by hawthorn’s spring scent, then you won't find it unpleasant.

By September, the pollinated flowers become 1 cm wide, deep red fruits known as haws. These can contain up to five seeds at their centre.”

Hawthorn

Flowers that smell faintly of rotting meat. Charming!

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