Sunday, November 23, 2014

happy christmas

Abies nordmanniana

Christmas trees for sale in Asda. Someone had torn off a branchlet, which I eagerly salvaged.

When I was a child the Christmas tree both in Sweden and England was invariably Norway Spruce (Picea abies) and what people of my generation will fondly remember is pricking their fingers on the sharp needles, the difficulty of preventing the heavier baubles from slipping off the rather thin glossy foliage, and later sweeping up all those needles, which tend to fall off in the dessicated air of modern houses. Of course the Norway Spruce is also a much-loved component of the Nordic forest.

Anyway, the luxury Xmas tree of today, as seen here, is Caucasian Fir (Abies nordmanniana, sometimes called Nordmann Fir); the needles are stouter, pleasant to handle, and usually don't fall off. The labels say that you can plant the tree out when Christmas is over. I'm a bit sceptical about that, since most silver firs dislike town air, but apparently on basic soils it does better than Norway Spruce.

Abies nordmanniana

Abies nordmanniana, upperside

Abies nordmanniana, underside

Abies nordmanniana is a refugia species of the Caucasus region. It is a big tree: specimens in the Western Caucasus reserve reach 85m, the tallest trees in Europe.

It also grows throughout Turkey, but always in mountains. The Turkish ssp. equi-trojani is presumably so-called because it forests the upper parts of the mountain familiar to all western literary types as Mount Ida.  Its Turkish name is Kazdağı ("goose mountain").

Judging from the lack of hairs on the shoot, this branchlet is indeed ssp. equi-trojani, so if you get fed up with thinking about Christmas while reading this post, then think about Paris and Oenone instead.

                   Hither came at noon
Mournful Oenone, wandering forlorn
Of Paris, once her playmate on the hills.
Her cheek had lost the rose, and round her neck
Floated her hair or seem'd to float in rest.
She, leaning on a fragment twined with vine,
Sang to the stillness, till the mountain-shade
Sloped downward to her seat from the upper cliff.
They came, they cut away my tallest pines,
My tall dark pines, that plumed the craggy ledge
High over the blue gorge,

(From Tennyson's poem Oenone (1829).)

"Pines" is an understandable error. Obviously Paris' ship was made from Caucasian Fir!

Abies nordmanniana, bud

Abies nordmanniana, buds

Abies nordmanniana, shoot

Abies nordmanniana, twig

Close-up of slightly older wood, with cracks developing.

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