Sunday, 31 October 2010

Redder Than Red

What an absolute delight it was to see some of the colours yesterday, growing around the site of Shipley Hall.  Among the best were these jewel-like berries of the Yew tree (Taxus baccata).
I said 'berries' but in fact they are a modified cone, the Yew being a coniferous tree.  Widely grown in and around graveyards, possibly because of its longevity and supposed connection to 'eternal life'.  It is more probable that they were planted in graveyards because their branches resemble palm fronds and were then used in Palm Sunday services.
Almost all of the tree is poisonous, with the exception of the bright red 'aril' surrounding the seed.  This is  deliberately juicy and good to eat for the birds which ingest them by the hundred.
The wood of the Yew tree has been used for thousands of years to make bows and arrows.  A Yew spear-head of some 450,000 years old was found in Essex in 1911.  That most feared item of Medieval warfare, the Longbow, was made of Yew wood with the heartwood on the inside (the middle) of the bow and sapwood on the outside giving both strength and flexibility.
Lastly for today, a picture of an Acer, also found in the old gardens of Shipley Hall.  Its redness was almost glowing against the greens and yellows of the Autumn season and made a perfect backdrop for anyone who would sit on the bench in front if it.
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