Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Planting for posterity

We all know the old, presumably American, joke: 'Posterity never did nuthin' fer me'.  I was reminded of this when visiting our neighbourhood Tesco car park earlier today.

Lime trees stand leafless beside the Tesco
 car park in Daventry. 3 November, 2015

The Daventry store, like so many other supermarkets, is not a thing of beauty, and the car park is ... well, a car park. But some attempt has been made to soften the scene by the planting of trees. Some lime trees are present but these are quite old and clearly pre-date the development. Others are commonplace: ash, birch and rowan are dotted around. However, a little 'planting for posterity' is evident.

Understandably people, by and large, look for instant impact when putting in plants. Few are prepared to plant trees which may not flower until they have long shuffled off this mortal coil. The consequence is that many lovely trees go unplanted.

Dove Tree photographed at Hellidon, Northants.
8 June, 2015

One such tree is the Dove Tree, aka the Pocket Handkerchief Tree, Davidia involucrata.  It is not difficult to grow (although seed germination can be tricky) and once established will develop into quite a large tree. But it may take ten years before producing its first 'flowers' (what appear to be white petals are really bracts) and sometimes quite a bit longer.

Back to the supermarket...

I was strolling along when, peripherally, I noticed an oddly-shaped leaf and, looking up I realised I was standing beneath a Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipifera. Posterity planting!

Foliage of a Tulip Tree in Tesco car park, Daventry.
3 November, 2015

This member of the Magnolia family is native to the southern states of the U.S.A. The leaves are generally described as orbicular, but at both the base and apex they are truncated in a very characteristic manner.

Tulip Tree leaves can hardly be mistaken for any others.
Tesco car park, Daventry. 3 November, 2015

A downward glance showed that the pavement was littered with these leaves and no doubt, were Chris and I regular Tesco shoppers, we would have noticed them long ago.

The Tesco chain of supermarkets has not enjoyed a good press over recent years but my view of them became a little less sour when finding these Tulip Trees - of which there were several. The trees showed no sign of having flowered and, from seed germination, it may be twenty years before their lovely, goblet-shaped, pale yellow and orange blooms appear. (And, incidentally, the trees can top 150 feet in good conditions. Has anyone told Tesco of this possibility? But, hey, the wood is a valuable timber.)

I'm unlikely to change my shopping habits and become a Tesco customer, but I will try and visit the car park next summer to see if the blooms appear. They have probably been there for fifteen years, so maybe...

Finally I would mention that Tulip Trees - and indeed the whole Magnolia Family - evolved before bees evolved on earth and pollination is mainly carried out by beetles. I believe the seeds are rarely produced in Britain.

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