Monday, January 19, 2009
oak, perfume, click
Of the 450 - 500 varieties of oak in the world, only two are native to the British Isles - Quercus robur and Quercus petraea. According to The Secret Life of Trees by Colin Tudge, Quercus originated in South East Asia and spread in all directions, and by the Eocene, around 55 million years back, they were common in China, Europe and North America. I always enjoy the thought that the word "cork" is derived from Quercus because, of course, corks are made from the bark of the cork oak, Quercus suber. At least they were until the arrival of plastic or composite substitutes.
At this time of year if you walk through Belview the short, brick paved pathway that leads from The Grove to Little Mount Sion, you will encounter a powerful scent. My first impression was that it had something to do with horses. It reminded me of the sweet smell of straw combined with the smell of steaming horse, that you get from stables. Except that there are no stables there and no horses. The source of the scent is in fact a shrub called called Sarcococca, or sweet box. The white flowers are small and, in themselves, unimpressive but, as my plant book says, you smell them before you see them.
Lying in bed in the morning I note that it begins to get light now at about the same time as the alarm would go off, it it were set. Because I am invariably half awake, I hear the alarm mechanism in the digital clock make a satisfying click as the hands touch 7.15, and I don't even have to open my eyes to know the time.