Saturday 22 July 2017


In late April and early May, Milton Country Park is white with hawthorn blossom. The only tree to break this hegemony of white is a solitary laburnum bush that grows besides the path as it winds it way along the east bank of Dickerson's Pit. Its branches arching over the path are heavy with long clusters of bright yellow flowers, fully justifying its alternative name of 'Golden Rain'.

Close up of blossom heavy branches of Laburnum
Golden Rain - 4 May 2017
This picture clearly shows how appropriate the name 'Golden Rain' is.

But beware!  This beautiful bush has a reputation for being highly poisonous.   Although all parts of the bush are toxic, the main danger is to children who eat the seeds as they would eat peas.  Symptoms range from nausea to, more frighteningly, convulsions, frothing at the mouth, and going into a coma.  Fatalities are extremely rare.

Flowering laburnum bush overhanging path with hawthorn blossom further along.
Path besides Dickerson's Pit - 4 May 2017
The bright yellow flowers eclipse the white hawthorn behind.

As with many plants of late introduction into Britain, there is very little folklore associated with the laburnum, which was first cultivated here in the mid sixteenth century.  One snippet that I found interesting, is that a laburnum will fail to flower if a neighbouring tree is removed.

Medlar Tree


Close up of a single medlar flower surrounded by leaves
Medlar Flower - 11 May 2017
Single flowers are almost hidden among the full grown leaves

My next tree, the medlar, certainly does not challenge the dominance of the hawthorn.  A single tree is situated at the southern end of the orchard.  Its blossom is almost hidden by its leaves, which are full grown by the time its single white flowers are out.

Close up of a bud of medlar just beginning to open
Medlar Flower Bud - 11 May 2017

I have included in this post, not because of its visual impact, but because its name intrigues me. To me, it sounds medieval, conjuring up the age of chivalry, of knights in armour, and grand banquets.  It is certainly old.  The medlar, which has been cultivated for thousands of years, was first brought to England in the eleventh century.  

But it is not possible to discuss the medlar's name without considering its fruit.  'Medlar' is thought to be derived from the French 'Medler', and means nothing more than the fruit of a small fruit bearing tree?!

Close up a medlar fruit
Medlar Fruit - 6 September 2016

One alternative name is 'open-arse' or 'openaers', derived either from the appearance, or the laxative properties of the fruit.  The French also have an alternative name 'cul-de-chien' or 'Dogs Arse'. 

It is with the more vulgar name that the medlar first found its way into English literature: in the prolog to the Reeves Tale, Chaucer uses the term 'open-ers' or 'openarse'.  Later, Shakespeare was to use both 'medlar' and 'open-arse' in a single speech in Romeo and Juliet.  In modern literature, D H Lawrence continued the faecal reference, when, in one poem,  he described the medlar as: "Wineskins of brown morbidity, autumnal excrementa".

Wayfaring Tree


Close up showing umbel of five petalled white flowers
Wayfaring Tree Flower Head - 23 April 2017

Another tree which flowers in late April or early May is the wayfaring tree.  There are just a few of these tree in the hedgerows at the north end of the park, their white flowers overwhelmed and easily overlooked among the apple and hawthorn blossom.  I only spotted them for the first time this April, after more than two years of paying close attention to the plant life in the park.

wayfaring tree with white flowers growing in hedge beside a path
Path by Wetlands - 23 April 2017
Wayfaring tree embedded in one of the hedges at the north end of the park

'Wayfaring Tree' is another of those traditional English names which I find so evocative.  The name was given to it by Gerarde, describing its habit of growing by the wayside.

Next: May Day and Hawthorn Blossom


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