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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

miss tree


look and learn

When I was a Brownie, when I was a Sprite, * I managed to pass my Tree Badge, which required reciting the roll call of exotics and being able to identify a tree from its leaf in front of a judge, who was the rostered neighbourhood expert in the field. In this case the judge was my father.
I passed by memory skills, with no help from the family green thumb, which I did not inherit.
While I may still know my elms ok, I think I have rested on my Brownie laurels.
Recently I was trying to describe a tree I'd seen to a professional expert in the field and fumbled clumsily for words, non-latin words to boot. In fact it was akin to struggling for language in a foreign land, busted for not doing your homework, for not being sufficiently tree-lingual.
Then days later I was still trying to put a name to the tree with a search directory, one of those uses of technology they once lauded in ads for printers. I was eliminating varieties of banksia and grevillea when I stared out of the window. My eyes rested on a tree and I said "That's it!" - life imitating TV, the tropes of sitcoma.
Anyway, the embarrassing confession is that this tree, for so long anonymous and invisible to me, is a very common species. Naming it has summoned it into existence in sudden profusion. It is everywhere in the urban environment.
It's as if I had said to this expert: have you ever heard of a rose?
Still, a fortnight ago, when it was unknown and exotic, I saw the tree in question forming an avenue of striking colour in a dry landscape. It was a temporarily remarkable first contact.
 

11 comments:

Ann oDyne said...

I think that I shall never see
A thing as lovely as a tree

Out! Damn chainsaw! Out!

best Boynton post
... evah.

Juke said...

Most lyrical most fine, most Boyntonesque.
Oh rhapsodic interval unexpected, oh deciduous mirth delivered clean with much restraint, and sylvan prospects furthering, on laurels resting, and rose and bay.
And Joseph Banks, himself, may just look down that cloudy aspect metaphoric from whence he metaphoric looks, and nod adventurous approval.
What's common now was once singular and new.
There's a flower hereabout that's common as mint by faucets. It was always in the yard somewhere or out the back or in the alley wherever we moved, so came to be associated with my ma, as she was also there wherever we moved, the one familiar in each new place, and the other.
And I've never found it at the same time as company who would know it by its name with the question at hand, and never found it here, meaning here, in this landscape of searchable landscapes, in this forest of each tree depicted and described, this ever broad and broader meadow of images of all things that have been managed to be put, here.
A tree, and now a flower, in an ecology of the known but not quite.

boynton said...

cheers A'OD.
The poet-trees around here are so visibly heat stressed at the moment it breaks your heart.

Tks, Juke, :)
but I think maybe it cld be pruned back to:
What's common now was once singular and new.

- and how will the meadows tell you what it means?

boynton said...

err, that is, I think my post could stand some pruning down to a couplet or so. (Not your wonderful response ;)

Juke said...

We're in this together B.

Sarra said...

I'm dying to know which species, now!

boynton said...

Alas, it is just too embarrassing to disclose!

Anonymous said...

I get a terrible mental blank when it comes to those ones with the needly sort of leaves, you know - casuarinas. It couldn't be that bad, B, surely?

wen

boynton said...

hello there, wen!
Casuarinas
(looks up google images casually)
Yes it is that bad, I think, worse.

barista said...

I didn't know what a Hakea was until I had to clean the thing up regularly after the cockatoos had gone through.

And as for Grevilleas.. and those bottle brush trees.. um.. Banksias? Which are also Proteaceae. Wikipedia s my friend.

I developed a fondness for Robineas, after I learnt what they were and failed to grow one, even though the net tells me they have "bad suckering habits."

And bloody wattles, which can be all kinds of things and are really Acacias which belong to the family of Mimosoideae.. Robineas don't because the most common one is only a pseudo-acacia..

Don't even look at juvenile versions of Eucalypts because they look like something grown up and completely different. Think Blue Gums...

I once had a great moment travelling in the bush with foresters, when I confessed I couldn't tell what any of the species were. "Don't worry, David," they said, "neither can we."

Gums are bloody hard to tell apart and the beasts keep hybridising too.

I love the name Xanthippia. Trouble is, I thought it was a kind of tree thing. But google tells me the real name is Xanthorrhoea, which sounds like some terrible disease from the Mediterranean. We used to call them "black boys" before we decided that language like that was racist and a disease in itself.

However, I am pretty good on the names of dogs. Even though people keep mixing them up in a frenzy of fashion-driven cross breeding.

boynton said...

That's a great story of the foresters.

I have heard of Grevillea By-side-a-roadie or even
Grevillea Whatabore for the moments of confusion on the road.

Yep - we can only hope the Gums don't acquire names like Spoodle and Groodle as they hybridise.