The alder – alnus glutinoas – is a native to Britain, growing to a height of 20m and living up 150 – 200 years. It has nitrogen fixing nodules on its roots and this can improve the soil in which it is growing. Alders often grow in areas of poor soil making the soil fit for other plants. It grows happily in damp areas where its roots can help prevent erosion. These roots also make ideal places for otter holts. Adapted to the damp, its wood can withstand or and has traditionally been used for water pipes, foundation piles (much of Venice is built on alder piles), boats and sluice gates. Today alder is often used to make plywood.
Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
The best way not to feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope. Barack Obama
The oak – quercus robur – is a deciduous tree native to Britain, growing to a height of 20-40m. The oak doesn’t produce acorns until about its 40th year, and doesn’t reach its maturity for timber until 150 years. Oaks can live for up to a thousand years. Oaks and oak woods support a larger diversity of living things than any other native tree.
The wood is hard and durable – robust as its Latin name suggests. It has been typically used for constructing ships and for beams in buildings. The wood is widely used for floor boards and barrels. Tannic acid from the wood is used in tanning leather.
The oak tree has become a symbol of strength and survival.
In the Book of Genesis, the Lord God appears to Abraham whilst he is by the oaks of Mamre and they sit together in the shade.
Provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of God’s splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Isaiah 63:3-4
Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns; but that is of interest only to pigs. Our faith gives us knowledge of something better: that we become oak trees. E F Schumacher
Frankincense comes from a genus of tree called Boswellia. It is their fragrant resin that forms the grains of frankincense that are used in churches. it has long been associated with prayer and holiness. These trees grow in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia. The resin also has pharmaceutical uses.
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Psalm 141:2
Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is a daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. Mahatma Gandhi
The ash – fraxinus excelsior – is the third most common tree in Britain. it grows to 20m in height – but sometimes even twice that – and can live for 400years, longer still if it is coppiced. Its straight grain and strong flexible wood makes it useful for furniture, tool handles, snooker cues, bows, bell stays and walking sticks. ash keys – its seed – have a wonderful flight pattern, spinning like helicopter wings. The timing of the ash coming into leaf can also serve as a weather forecast:-
“If the oak before the ash, then we’ll only have a splash; if the ash before the oak, then we’ll surely have a soak!”
“To dwellers in a wood, almost every species of tree has its presence voice as well as its feature.” Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree
“Then let the trees in the forest sing out in praise, for the Lord is coming to judge the world.” 1 Chronicles 16:33
The Scot’s pine – pinus sylvestris – is one of the three conifers native to Britain. It can grow to a height of 35m and can live up to 700 years. Its strong wood is widely used in the construction industry and for ships’ masts, telegraph poles, pit props, fence posts etc. Its resin can be used to make pitch and turpentine. The high resin content of its sap means that the wood is slow to decay.
The Scot’s pine is known as a pioneer tree – a tree that can grow in a hostile environment whilst at the same time making the place more hospitable for other plants.
“Momo listened to everyone and everything – even to the rain and the wind and the pine trees – and all of them spoke to her after their own fashion.” ‘Momo’, Michael Ende
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”’ Mark 1:13
The silver birch – betula pendula – can grow up to 30m in height. Its widely spread roots enables it to draw nutrients from a large area enabling it to grow where the soil’s fertility may initially be low. Its trunk often provides nesting spaces for woodpeckers as well as supporting various types of fungi.
Birch wood is often used in making ply wood. Its bark can be used to make bowls, boxes, baskets and even small boats.
In Celtic mythology, the silver birch symbolised renewal and purification.
“…the birch trees which grew on this margin of the vast Edgon wilderness had put on their new leaves, delicate as butterflies’ wings and diaphanous as amber.” Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native, Book VI, Chapter 1
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
‘Toads which live on Ham Common are currently breeding and will make the 100-metre journey from their habitat to pools on the other side of the road to spawn for approximately three weeks.’ Our local council is temporarily closing this road to ensure the safety of the roads. Toad number have fallen by two thirds over the last 30 plus years largely because of the disappearance of ponds, ditches and wet ground which are part of their natural habitat. Toads are a gardener’s friend because they eat slugs and snails.
Piero Della Francesca lived in Tuscany and his paintings often reflect the local countryside. At this time chestnut trees were common in this mountainous region and the chestnut itself was a staple part of the people’s diet, as it could be ground into a flour to make bread – known as ‘pane di legno’ or tree bread.
Here in the middle of this picture is a tall tree that might be a chestnut tree or maybe a walnut tree. Perhaps it is a reminder of Jesus’s words, ‘I am the Bread of Life.’
Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who brought forth bread from the earth.
The Carib tree – ceratonia siliqua – or locust tree is an evergreen shrub growing up to 15m. It grows happily in Mediterranean climates and can survive periods of drought. Its fruit is an edible bean tasting like cocoa. There is a suggestion that it was these locust beans, and not insects, that were eaten by John the Baptist in the wilderness. The tree is sometimes referred to as St John’s bread.
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Matthew 3:1-2
Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit. Edward Paul Abbey, environmentalist (1927-1989)
“The Tree of Knowlede” – this bronze sculpture by Joe A Tyler stands before majestic Catalina Mountains, California, and welcomes visitors at the Oro Valley Public Library.
According to the Book of Genesis there are two trees in the middle of the Garden of Eden, the tree of life and the tree of all knowledge. It is eating from the latter that makes us what we are as humans.
Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.” Alan Moore, V for Vendetta
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15