Opalescent trees: Visiting old friends

As autumn hots up (in colour at least) I find myself visiting some of my favourite trees to check how they’ve fared this year and see what triumphant crops and colours they are displaying just now. Many of them are old friends that I have been visiting for a good few years. In fact some of the shine on the bark of the Betula ermanii and Prunus serrula I put down to the number of times that I’ve been tempted into rubbing them. Anyhow, I thought it would be nice to share some of these trees. So this post will look at a few favourites that I see every week at Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire.

Here is the first, Platanus x hispanica, a huge London Plane, with its classic peeling bark. This one can be found on the left in the pleasure gardens. The leaves are just beginning to show some yellow and brown tints.


A little later on its huge spreading branches will be revealed in all their glory, along with its prolific crop of decorative, dangling seed balls (achenes that form an aggregate ball):


and if that isn’t decorative enough, this horizontal branch is often used in seasonal displays:


The second tree I wanted to share is an american black walnut (Juglans nigra). This particular example is found in the gardens where the path splits and leads down towards Home Farm. The walnut’s long feathery leaves catch the late afternoon sunshine in a hazy, romantic way.


Higher up, its canopy positively glows, looking luminous against bright blue or grey stormy skies.


The walnut has dark, fissured bark that contrasts brilliantly with the leaves in colour and texture:


Closer to the ground the limbs are covered in a rich tapestry of lichens and mosses, which you don’t really notice until the branches are bare.


This year it has a good crop of walnuts. They are beginning to fall, but most are hanging on. I like the way the leaves look like ripples in water.


The third favourite is a grafted cherry. I am afraid I’ve no idea what it is though. From the path it does not look a particularly interesting specimen, but like all the flowering cherries its leaves are changing colour to nice red tones.


However, it has an umbrella-like canopy, reaching almost to the ground. If you step inside, you can see the strange geometric patterns and textures of the trunk. My favourite part is the mossy base emerging from a falling pool of rainbow leaves.


The final tree I’d like to mention is an ordinary holm oak (Quercus ilex). In fact I couldn’t even really tell you what the tree looks like, except that the trunk leans over precariously. The main reason I like the tree is the space beneath its branches. Its dark canopy hangs down like velvet curtains and in late afternoon the sun peeps through this fringe and the light is scattered around inside. It makes the place feel incredibly peaceful and otherworldly.

holm2The ground beneath the canopy is covered with a deep leaf litter, built up over years, and in the autumn you can sometimes find purple-tinged wood blewitts and ‘hen of the wood’ fungi around the base of the trunk.


I don’t think the photo catches the atmosphere unfortunately, but you do get a bit of a sense of the filtered olive green/grey light that exists in that space.

At this point I realise that I’ve not selected anything exotic or unusual for the post, although Wimpole has its fair share of those. My picks have mostly been about form and atmosphere. Of course, I have another half a dozen or so ‘favourite’ trees about the estate. However, that will do for today.


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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14 Responses to Opalescent trees: Visiting old friends

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    Wonderful specimens -all very special. I do love the walnut’s dark branches against the yellow leaves – beautiful contrast.

  2. I too love the blackness of the walnut branches against the pineapple yellow leaves. It’s a great time of year to simply look (especially at trees) and to find beauty both in the city and in rural landscapes.

  3. Julie says:

    I loved accompanying you on your tour around some of Wimpole’s trees, what a lovely opportunity you have to study these specimens more closely.

  4. Chloris says:

    Thank you for a wonderful description of your favourite trees. As a fellow red worshipper I really enjoyed it.

    • I took some friends to see one of the acer osakazukis in the pleasure grounds the other day and I realized that I use the word ‘favourite’ in relation to trees rather alot! Still I guess they are good things to be passionate about.

  5. Chloris says:

    Sorry, predictive writing strikes again. I mean tree, not red!

  6. In the USA our name for Plane Trees is Sycamore. I grew up in a house on Sycamore Lane, and it was indeed lined with Sycamores, so I have fond memories of this tree. I love the photos of the Walnut, with those mossy branches.

    • Most of central London seems to be lined with Plane trees, mostly because of their pollution tolerance I think. They are huge trees though and are gradually being removed due to problems with their disruptive root systems and insurance claims! That walnut is a wonderful little ecosystem.

  7. Tina says:

    Stunning photos, all of them. I think my favorite is the next-to-last. It seems to capture the cragginess and gracefulness of the tree.

  8. Pingback: #NationalTreeWeek 2022 – Day 1 | Frogend dweller's Blog

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