Why Are Trees Trees ?

Baby Maple by hedera.baltica

Why Are Trees Trees ?

The history of trees is that
The trees are not a clade –
They spring-up from the strangest places,
So beech and birch are boring,
All their family are so wooden,
But others have the oddest kin
And ev’ry one’s a good ’un.
They’ve found the same solution
Independently, you know –
When stretching for the sunlight, well,
There’s just one way to go.

So apple trees are strawberries
That built a sturdy trunk,
Yucca palms are bluebells
If a bluebell were a hunk.
Acacia trees are runner beans
That bolted in their teens,
While rubber trees are spurges
That have stretched beyond their means.
There’s only so much energy,
And trees don’t like to share –
They’re hungrier when taller,
But their mouths are ev’rywhere !

So linden limes are cottons
That have fluffed-up in the streets,
And oranges are really rue
Whose bitterness turned sweet.
Finest teak is peppermint,
That’s why it smells so nice –
And eucalyptus is a clove
That added too much spice.
The forest is a battleground,
And ev’ry plant must fight –
So trees is what you always get,
If what you get is height.

I’m not very good at identifying plants on sight, but I can thoroughly recommend the app PlantNet.

Holly Blossom

The Holly by M.Toma

Holly Blossom

I love to grab a handful of holly-leaves,
Pale and tender in the Spring,
Before they’ve darkened, hardened, sharpened,
Tanned their leather good and bent.
I love to hug a branchful of holly-sheaves,
Ere each shoot has gained its sting –
To shakes its hand with good intent,
To thank it for last Yule well-spent.

The Thick in the Air

Neville Road, West Ham by Malc McDonald is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

The Thick in the Air

In Spring, I can sniff-out the sap as it rises,
And comes overshooting the branches and twigs
Of the cherries and lindens and suburban figs –
A streets full of pollen – my nose recognises
That Spring has returned to the gardens again,
In the asphalted forests of wychelm and plane.
My hay-fevered neighbours are rather less happy,
But I scent the chestnuts, the sweet and the horse,
And the avenues of the acacias, of course !
Municipal headiness leaves me quite sappy –
The syrups of sycamores, weepings of willows,
That’s wafted by birdsong in sugary billows.

Thou Shalt Not Gender with a Diverse Kind

Photo by light wizzi on Pexels.com

Thou Shalt Not Gender with a Diverse Kind

                    (in response to Leviticus 19:19)

I am the Lord your God,
And I clearly lay down word and rule –
Do not interbreed your cattle,
Nor produce a hybrid mule –
For if your beef is tough,
Then that is how I mean your beef to taste,
Do not allow these foreign cows
To make your home-grown bulls debased.
Don’t raise a mule, but make do with an ass,
And a smaller pack.
Don’t mix your strands,
But keep your garments pure upon your back.
Don’t weft your linen with your wool,
And mingle threads within your hem.
And though these laws be heavy,
Use no mule to help you carry them.

I say again, I am your Lord,
No things of yours shall fraternise –
Don’t plant your field with many seeds,
Or who can know what shoots may rise ?
Let pagans plant their carrots with their leeks
To keep them company,
But I say, let yours suffer by the fly,
For it is sent by me.
Now let the weevil dine on fruits and grains,
And slugs reduce your yields,
And praise my swarming locusts
As they take your monocultured fields.
Do not co-plant companions,
For all your crops must stand alone –
Just like my hungry chosen people
In this wilderness I’ve sown.


An early HE 11200s corbel in Bamberg Cathedral


Green men – as grey as stone,
All talking with their mouths full,
Look in any ancient church
And you may find a houseful.
Part of the grotesque gallery
To keep watch on us mortals –
Lurking round the capitals,
And hanging from the corbels.

Green men, as Pagan as they sound,
As yews and birches,
As nature-sprites whose temples got rebuilt
As parish churches.
Or are they jolly demons, greening Hell
And sprouting lies ?
They don’t look very evil, though –
But rather rustic-wise.

Green men, as vigorous as weeds
Where priests don’t mow –
Though Jesus doesn’t mind, it seems,
Content to let them grow.
So are they harvest gods of yore,
Or mistletoes in larches ?
Or are they merely hunkypunks,
To decorate the arches ?

Unspruced Pine

Unspruced Pine

Ev’ry year, they foist an austerity tree upon Trafalgar Square –
Begrudgingly, they hoist it up with as few fairy lights as they can
Just straight-up-and-down, with no helter-skelter, or swags, or laissez-faire,
And only white, as if other colours fall foul of a bureaucrat’s ban.
It looks a bit like a deep-sea comb-jelly, wilting embarrassed under our gaze.
It even makes the Fourth Plinth look impressive – now there’s a paradox !
Haven’t we any goddam civic pride, or is that taboo these days ?
Honestly, Oslo, we treat your heartfelt gift like a packet of socks.
Thus the status quo avoids the threat of tinsel, and regulates ev’ry star,
So the branches are bare of baubles, and of candy canes there are none.
I guess it can’t outshine old Nelson, we need to remember who we are –
For we are stoic, joyless Brits, and we mustn’t have too much fun.

As to how come there’s a tree in the Square at all, see here.

Munch Munch

Photo by Pamela Marie on Pexels.com

Munch Munch

Caterpillars – nibble-eaters, strictly vegetarian,
They’re chowing-down on sugarbeats and duckweed and valerian,
And wriggling over cabbages and newly-vented greens,
Just look at all the gaping holes between the runner beans !
Row on decimated row beneath their painted swarms –
Lord knows how they cling on through the heat and thunderstorms !
Where are all the hungry songbirds ?  Browse my salad bar.
Where the parasitic wasps ?  Attend my buffet car !
Of course, there are the carnivores, though these are very few,
And they eat ants and aphids, not the skipper or the blue.
But still, a few round here would be a very welcome catch,
Though they are in the Tropics, nowhere near my veggie patch.
But there is hope – I hear that sometimes, when the Moon is full,
That certain individuals, on a whim, turn cannibal,
Gobbling up their brother bugs, to dominate the leaf,
And sucking all their insides out like so much bully beef.
But otherwise, my only cheer is hearing on the vine
How numbers of the butterflies are in a steep decline –
A shame the planet has to burn to stop their constant graze,
But you should see the harvest that I’ll reap those final days !

Incendentally, the carnivorous caterpillars mentioned are the Hawaiian pugs.

Know your Onions

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Know your Onions

The onions always made you cry,
In ev’ry fry-up, soup, and pie –
But that’s what onions do, I guess,
They leave all chefs in such a mess.
And so you had to drop them out
From roasted duck and sauteed trout –
You didn’t trust, as master cook,
They way they always made you look.

Instead, you turned to garlic,
And gazed beyond shallots and springs –
Your eyes no longer marked by onion rings.
You tossed the cloves in thick,
Undaunted by my teasing quips –
“Is this to stop me kissing other lips ?”
Until, at once, you were gone –
You said it was to breathe fresh air,
To peel back the layers of life and see what’s there.
And yet, you linger on –
It’s been three days and a dozen beers,
Yet still I taste your garlic in my tears.

Wet Rain & Dry Rain

The First Unbrella by an unknown artist

Wet Rain & Dry Rain

A month of Sun, and then a month of rain
All in a day
Of monochrome,
A month of Sun, then get the horrid rain
Out of the way,
While we stay home.

Alas, a month of heat will bake the ground
As hard as clay,
It can’t be tilled –
So when the rain comes down, so fleet,
It floods the river, floods the street,
But cannot penetrate two feet,
And washes off, away.
The aquifer, I fear, is not refilled
By what the clouds have milled.

The thing is, if you want tall trees,
Then what you need is drizzle.
A garden full of bumblebees
Needs flowers, which need drizzle.
For wheat that’s taller than your knees,
For greener grass and fatter peas,
For tamping down your allergies,
You need a May of drizzle.

Ophelia’s Pharmacy

Gather ye Rosebuds While ye May by John Waterhouse

Ophelia’s Pharmacy

Here’s rosemary – for memory, some say,
But here I offer it up for aches,
And for the colic, here’s caraway,
And there, valerian for shakes.
I have the wisest sage for the eyes,
And columbine for fevered brows,
And lavender, to drive off the flies,
And camomile daisies to help you drowse.
Some fennel to keep you regular, back there,
And thyme to rid the worms,
Here’s rue for you, but it scalds in the sun – take care,
Use St John’s wort for the burns.
And for the maidens, I’ve violet and pansy,
To keep your flowerhead free from weeds.
And if these fail, there’s purgative tansy –
Restoring your bloom, not going to seed.

I know, I know, I’ve rhymed worms with burns. Not ideal, but sometimes you have to take a leaf from hip-hop’s lyric sheet and roll with ‘close enough’.