Monday, May 05, 2008

Leaves of spring

click photo to enlarge
In 1664, John Evelyn (1620-1706), the English gardener and writer, published "Silva, or A Discourse of Forest Trees". In this ground-breaking book, written to encourage the planting of trees to meet the ship-building needs of Britain's growing navy, he described the species found in the British Isles. He noted those that were native to the islands, and those that were introduced. One of the trees discussed by Evelyn is the sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus. There were relatively few of these trees at that time, and he correctly described them as an introduced variety. No one can be sure who first brought the sycamore to Britain. Perhaps it was the Romans, or maybe it was later travellers bringing seeds or saplings from its native home in south and central Europe. Whoever it was, they are responsible for a tree that is now widespread, one of the commonest trees in many parts of the country.

Acers, confusingly also known as maples, are widely used as a source of wood for flooring, furniture and joinery. Its white, clean wood is almost odour-free making it useful for jobs associated with food. The sap from the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is tapped and made into a highly prized syrup. In Britain, though foresters see the sycamore as useful, it is also invasive and subject to control in some areas. However, gardeners love the acer and many varieties are cultivated for their distinctive and attractive leaf colours seen in spring and autumn. In my garden two acers are currently spreading their leaves: one a copper colour, the other a bright lime green, though today's photograph shows an orange variety that I came upon early one evening in a nearby cemetery! The blue sky proved to be the ideal complementary colour for the attractive foliage, and the shadows cast by higher leaves on those lower down added a further layer of interest.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 38mm macro (76mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off