A Month Of Trees


We'll be having trees drummed into us all month. Even tonight at, mark you, The James Joyce Centre in North Great George's Street, Dublin, Professor Risteard Mulcahy will be talking as part of Crann's Samhain Festival of Trees.

Looking out the window, the old oak has never had so many acorns, nor so many big ones. They are falling, and not all bearing good news. Writers on trees tell us often that the oak is remarkable in acting as host to something between two and three hundred creatures. This year some of the baddies are thriving. For a remarkable number of the early-falling acorns bear a neat circular hole. Inside, as you cut it with a knife, you find a short passage and at the end a brown mass of what must be eggs. Not all the guests are welcome.

And still the leaves are deep green. A man from the West just arrived says they, too, have massive amounts of acorns, but got no apples this year. The brightest thing in the trees that are still in pots, are the American oaks, sometimes called red, but in this case firmly described by an expert as Burgundy in colour. There will be Tree Day after Tree Day. Crann, in a little pamphlet lists a score and a half of occasions but there will be more.

Some people plant trees as a business, just as other people raise cattle or sell motor cars or pull out your teeth. But trees have a dimension or two of their own. Personalities if you like, sometimes. In cities, we know, they help purify the air. Around houses in the country, they give shelter. For farmers, they are now, with good subsidies available, a part, maybe not big, of their income. But trees are also for looking at. Trees are things of beauty, to wonder at. We had a splendid book from Thomas Pakenham on trees of distinction, age and beauty. Mind you, for age, it would be hard to compete with some of the claims made for trees in France. There is said to be a yew at Calvados which is sixteen centuries old, or an olive tree at Roquebrune in the Alpes Maritimes which might have been planted by the Romans at the beginning of the Christian era.

There are trees associated with great deeds or holy men. But there are also the trees that you, personally like. Maybe climbed in when you were a child. Not necessarily beautiful, but as Robert Bourdu, a writer on trees has it, a "witness" tree, a tree that stands for some event or mark in your life. Or just a lovely thing.