Blackthorn and other prickly things

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I began the day with close study of the Gunneras, giant rhubarbs with bad attitude. They look as if a pterodactyl could swoop down and perch on their 5 metre circumference leaves, and it turns out that there are indeed Gunnera fossils from the Jurassic era. Indeed their distribution around the Southern Hemisphere (the ones here are from Brazil, but they have relatives in Africa, New Zealand and Australia) is because they lived on Gondwanaland, the ancient mega-continent that was long ago torn into pieces that have since drifted apart across the globe. So once again, I found myself in a botanical tardis.

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The tree of the day is another spiny customer, the blackthorn, sister tree to the hawthorn and like her, full of magical associations. Flowering before the leaves, with snow-white blossoms, and fruiting with sloes that are best picked after frost has softened and sweetened them a bit, blackthorn is a winter tree. The blackthorn spirit is said to preside from hallowe’en to Beltane, and the hawthorn spirit takes over through the summer. The blackthorn spirit I’m most interested in, of course, is sloe gin – which we’ll be sampling on Thursday evening, from 7pm. Bring a drinking poem!

We walked the length of the garden between the two blackthorns, indulging our senses of touch – it was a touchy-feely session. Here are some of the textures we found along the way.

Rubbery daisy with silk petals
Smooth as a desirable thigh
A bee-sting bite, sharp as a flame
Dessicated fronds
Crisp as fresh bread
Silk sheets
Suede
Pearly inflated paper pods
Noisy paper bells
A paper bag, and I’ve eaten the buns!
Tufts of honeyed mini pompons
Stiff spiny hairs
Brushing a hedgehog the wrong way
A shout of ‘get off!’
Prickles that do not prick or kill
A chamy-leather
A certain cure for a nettle sting
Skin-ripper
Blue and the broom, school’s not soon!

My finger tips are tingling!

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