29 July 2016

Tree Flowers: July 2016: Vine-Leaved Full Moon Maple

This maple, Acer japonicum 'Vitifolium', is a cultivar of the species that was introduced to Britain in 1864 from Japan. The cultivar was named, in Britain during 1876, for its large and lovely leaves - with leaves (folium) like vine (viti).

While the leaves are impressive, it's the flowers that attracted me to this tree when I photographed it in April of this year.

The deep red petals are small and the big yellow anthers protrude out of the flower. As the flower becomes fertilised the fruit starts to develop, while the petals remain for a time. It's beautiful to see these different stages, which I have tried to show in the photograph above.

Being a tree of cultivation, there are no major uses of the tree other than for how it looks, although the wood is said to be used for furniture and engraving in Japan. From these colourful and interesting flowers early in the season to the multi-coloured foliage in the autumn, this is a fine ornamental tree that can grow to around 10 metres in 20 years if optimally placed and cared for and is known to grow in a spreading habit.

More, David, and John White. Illustrated Trees of Britain and Northern Europe. London, UK: A&C Black, 2012.
Coombes, Allen J., and Zsolt Debreczy. The Book of Leaves: A Leaf-by-Leaf Guide to Six Hundred of the World’s Great Trees. S.l.: Ivy Press, 2015.

04 July 2016

Book Review: An Orchard Invisible by Jonathan Silvertown

Spanning 17 chapters, this book takes us on a journey from seed evolution to dispersal, from inheritance to gastronomy, all the while keeping the topic light and enjoyable.

This book is not only filled with surprising and interesting facts, such as: the earliest seed plants in the fossil record being from the Devonian period, which was around 360 mya, but the author has a knack for explaining difficult concepts in a way that does away with prerequisite reading.

Each chapter begins with a line drawing of a plant that will feature in the upcoming chapter, along with a poem or quote that shows the appreciation of seeds goes much deeper than being just a source of food. The chapters are reasonably short and feature well chosen quotes from the scientists throughout history.

I've been meaning to read a book about seeds for quite some time and I'm glad I stumbled upon this one a few weeks ago (Edit: It was weeks when I wrote this post - which I see was November 2015!). It's the sort of book that provides enough information to satisfy, but also plants a seed (pun intended) that makes you wonder how much more there is to learn about these wonderful containers of life.