Friday, November 13, 2015

Autumn berries

One of the most dramatic phenomena of the British countryside in winter is a large female holly with a full crop of berries caught in a sunlight which makes the glossy evergreen leaves as well as the clusters of red fruit shine with an almost tropical glory.

I once saw royal poinciana trees (Delonix regia) in flame red flower in Sri Lanka and, more surprisingly, a splendid example of  the Chilean fire bush (Embothrium coccineum) emblazoning a small garden in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, but neither had the sharp, in-your-face confidence of our native holly.  And we not only get the brilliance, there is all the folklore and the Christmastide symbolism.

Perhaps a little more sinister are the sagging ropes of poisonous black bryony berries, jewels of Halloween as writer Paul Evans called them, and, reminding of the snaking vines that clambered through fences and bushes in summer. They spring from large black tubers, once known as 'womandrakes' with a variety of magical and medicinal properties.

Such riches within quarter of a mile of home.

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