Mystery Flora: Gnarled and Resplendent


There are two trees in Heritage Park, gnomic, somewhat fey. They give the impression of incredible age, although I’m sure they’re not so very old. There’s just something about thick, twisted trunks and dense flowers that make one think of ancient forests in Faerie. Or at least one does if they’ve read the entire fairy tale series edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke, and other masters of fantasy.

Mystery Trees I

If fantasy was never your passion, on the other hand, they’re still lovely trees with intriguing twisty trunks.

So here they are, and I’ve passed them without a second glance in other seasons. But in spring, when they’re in full bloom, they compel attention. Stand up that little flight of stairs, and you’re on par with their canopy, looking along weirdly-shaped branches laden with blossoms.

Mystery Trees II

They’re cloud trees, storm trees, trees that are wild despite the fact that humans have domesticated them. I love these sorts of cultivated things, the ones that never quite manage to look fully tamed. Sometimes that’s the gardener’s art. My favorite gardeners are the ones who evoke wilderness rather than tidy things to the point of an almost bureaucratic order.

Mystery Tree III

And I like this about flowering trees: they carelessly drop their petals all over landscapers’ attempts to keep things groomed. This tree drops the whole bloom, perfect and complete.

Mystery Tree IV

I don’t know why I thought, once, long ago, that if I became an atheist, all of the beauty and magic would go out of the world. Where does that myth come from? Living without the supernatural doesn’t mean you can’t be utterly enchanted by something beautiful, struck silent with delight standing beside a gnarled trunk under a thick canopy of floating white blooms.

Mystery Tree V

Dark, lichen-covered bark stands out just as starkly against luxuriant white.

Mystery Tree VI

And the sky is still magnificent blue.

Mystery Tree VII

Stories still matter. I thought, for a while, that fantasy may no longer hold any fascination, but it does. Imagination is still intriguing. Playing with the impossible is still as joyful. About the only thing missing is the futile effort to step into Faerie or some other realm when I encounter a strange scene.

Mystery Tree VIII

There was a time when oddly-shaped trees would have had me contemplating the means and methods for leaving the mundane world. I don’t do that anymore, which has led to less frustration and more enjoyment of the odd things. Also, the world doesn’t seem mundane at all. Science has done what magic never could: open the gate to other worlds. Worlds where I’m related to twisted trees, for instance.

Mystery Tree IX

And where light scatters, and evolved eyes process the result, and a little huff of breath leaves the body as the intensity of the colors strikes a brain that quite likes that sort of thing.

Mystery Tree X

Who said there can’t be magic in the mundane? I just wish I’d realized the truth sooner.

Comments

  1. rq says

    Definitely a fruit tree; I would say, decorative peach tree (Prunus persica cultivar), since apples, plums and cherries don’t have flowers in that layered format. I think. I bet it smells nice, too.
    Some of the gnarliness comes from pruning (keeps the tree from growing random little branches, at least), but also most trees of this family (Rosaceae) which includes apples, plums and cherries tend to take on that gnarly look, especially the older they get. Ever seen an abandoned apple orchard? Gorgeous. And perfect for climbing, too, with near-horizontal branches perfect for sitting or lying or reading books.

    • Adrian says

      My only reservation with Peach tree is that I’ve never seen a white one. That’s not to say that they don’t exist.
      I think it could be an Apricot. Dana will have to go back in Autumn (or is that Fall?) and have a look for the fruit!

      • rq says

        Agreed. The internet had white peach blossoms of this shape, and the internet is obviously the most reliable source out there. :) I’ll have to make a note to myself to ask about the fruit in September or so.

  2. StevoR says

    Flora? So its not butter then?

    (Do you have that in the states too?)

    My guess for the identity of our mystery flora here :

    Pureel be nyzbaq?

    Use :

    http://www.rot13.com/index.php

    to decode the rot13.

    My fallback less specific guess :

    Fbzr xvaq bs fgbarsehvg ng yrnfg evtug? (OGJ. Pureel oybffbz pna or juvgr naq vfa’g nyjnlf cvax lrf?)

    Good pics – cheers. :-)

  3. Adrian says

    Dana,
    As they are in a town park, wouldn’t they be Metrognomic?

    OK, I’ll get my coat.

  4. Gregory in Seattle says

    I’ve seen these around Capitol Hill: very similar, but the flowers have a pinkish tint. I believe the trees are crab apple: in the autumn, they will have small apple shaped fruit about the size of a largish marble; if you cut them in half, you will find apple-type seeds rather than a cherry-type stone.

  5. flek says

    Looks like a shogetsu cherry. There are similar ones where I live called kwanzan which are very pink and get to look pretty old and gnarly despite the trees not being more than 20-50ish years. Both have that sort of puffy, layered flower and the red-tinged serrated leaves,

    • Achrachno says

      Yes, some sort of cherry. The ovate lvs. with long attenuate tips rule out apple and peach.

      But note that this is a freak — way too many petals to be natural. The plant tweakers have been at work: just can’t leave well enough alone.

  6. says

    So here they are, and I’ve passed them without a second glance in other seasons.

    Tell me about it. I keep meaning to look at these trees later in the year, to find out what kind of fruit they produce. Never remember to do it.

  7. Badland, delurking for a bit says

    Beautiful. I’ve always believed the godless have a much better appreciation of beauty than the goddy, because we don’t have the instinctive ‘oo isn’t god clever to make purty things like that’ reaction. The same process that gave us necrotising fasciitis gave us your trees. Bless ‘ee o natural selection