Something made me take a new path as I walked home from work… I’d gone past the way into the park many times before, glancing at it. I’m not sure why I hadn’t taken it.
After emerging from the cool shade of greenery and into the park’s centre, a tree wowed me with its other-worldliness. Large and tubular flowers of heavenly mauve. Branches in graceful lines against the blue sky. Was it a jacaranda? I took a picture of it with my phone camera, but could not get close enough to its high blooms and the light wasn’t working. (The photo in this post just serves to give an idea of shape).
Thanks to a member of the brilliantly active and passionate Facebook group, Thanet Trees, I found out that this tree is Pawlonia Tomentosa, originating from China, Laos and Vietnam. For hundreds of years this species has been travelling… In Europe, its home is often parkland.
Foxglove trees are large and they grow quickly – sometimes up to 8 feet per year! They like well-drained soils and sunshine. Hard frosts damage their buds. Funnily enough, I don’t remember us having much ice during the winter just gone, so perhaps that’s why we have such blooms (or maybe my eyes have opened too…).
Traditional belief in Japan (and possibly China – internet info is confusing) connects this tree with the feminine. A tree would be planted when a girl was born and once she reached the age of marriage, the tree would be cut and its wood carved for her dowry. You’ll find more on this if you read the post The Princess Tree: Stories of Pawlonia. I can’t help thinking again about trees linking life and death. In this case, life being the birth of the baby. Death being the sacrificial cutting down of the tree, marking the end of a chapter in a woman’s life. Then the carving of gifts, carried from one life to another… Perhaps representing a connection with a spiritual ‘home’ or a resurrection?
From the flames
A Japanese folkloric belief is that the phoenix chooses to land on the branches of the Foxglove Tree. When the bird perches, it brings prosperity. Incidentally, wildfire can initiate germination of the tree’s seeds.
I’m learning about this tree (and others). Do share your knowledge and thoughts… And more broadly, what have you seen today that was beautiful and somewhat surprising?