I was wondering what to write this week, as the main event happens tomorrow – we are planting a new tree!! This one is very different from the last in several ways; it has been chosen by us, it is a tree rather than a shrub and it is not a link to any sad memories.
So, what are we planting?
The tree is an Amelanchier lamarckii, it has several common names including Snowy Mespilus, Juneberry and Serviceberry. These common names can sometimes be good descriptions of how a tree will look or behave, but don’t tell us much about what it actually is or what it is related to. The genus Amelanchier includes many smallish flowering trees and shrubs, all with summer fruit and good autumn colour. The species name is often attributed to the scientist who found or classified the tree; in this case we have not been able to find out who this was, but will assume (rightly or wrongly) that lamarckii is from the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Lamarck lived from 1724 until 1829 and in 1801 he presented his (later discredited) Theory of Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics; he believed that organisms changed their behaviour and characteristics according to conditions, passing these changes on to their offspring, and that evolution happened according to a pre-determined plan. These theories were largely forgotten after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species around 50 years later (that’s your science lesson over for this week!!).
The family name of the tree is Rosaceae – the rose family. This includes many of our common fruit trees, rowans and hawthorns, to name but a few. There are already some rowan trees growing on the common, so our Amelanchier lamarckii will be among its cousins.
This species seems to have originated in the north-eastern United States/southern Canada, but grows successfully in all temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere including Asia and Europe. George Washington was reputed to have had one in his garden, so we are in good company! It was introduced into Europe in the 17th century, and is now naturalized in a few regions of southern England.
So, we hope that this tree will grow successfully, providing pretty blossom, summer fruit for birds (also edible for us, so we are told) and vibrant autumn colour for many years to come. There is also the added advantage that trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, offsetting some of the damage that we are all doing to our planet. (Although to successfully reverse global warming we need to plant a forest that is twice the size of the UK every year!) The planting will hopefully not disturb the stone with Russell’s name and the time capsule beneath. If anyone would like to write a new message to put under the new tree, now is your chance.
Please come along tomorrow to help us plant Amelanchier lamarckii (subspecies Russell!) and to contribute in a small way to helping our planet LIVE FOREVER.