Gardening Magazine

A Haze of Purple

By Ozhene @papaver

Christmas Day was a bit of a grey, damp, dank sort of a day and I decided I would go out for a walk in the morning before lunch. This would set the day up well for the idleness that would in no doubt follow. A quick trot around the block I thought to myself, but as I walked my feet kept going and what was going to be at most a nice three miles soon became five. I walked and walked.

A Haze of Purple

Most of where I live is suburban streets but there are moments when I can go 'off piste' and follow paths through unexpected greenery. In one of those moments (so close to a large retail park you can reach out and almost touch it), there is a junction in the paths where you can take the high road or the low road. The low road is prone to flooding though it is just a bit puddly at the moment. I usually go the low road as it follows the brook which I now see as a connector linking together different parts of my walks. Sometimes it is overground, sometimes is it underground, but it is there a companion on my walks. On Christmas Day I decided to take the high road, which generally I find less interesting but today I was looking to vary my route, to vary my life by a degree. I am a creature of too many habits and sometimes I have to push myself to not do the usual.

There in front of me, as a reward, was this purple haze of shrubs/trees doing their best to shine in the low light. I nearly just walked on by, but the colour was so good that it had captured my attention. I stopped to take the photo. As I got closer I had to stop again as the colours became more complicated.

A Haze of Purple

The haze is polychromatic. The tips of the trees are purply-brown, looking more purple from a distance and more brown as I got closer and the green of the stems suddenly become the dominant colour.

A Haze of Purple

I get closer still and the green it more than just green, it is a bejewelled mix of yellows and bluey-greys of lichen. I am going to make a guess that this lichen is Physcia adscendens, which google tells me is common particularly in Leicestershire and can be an indicator of high nitrogen levels. This is no surprise when considering how close the motorway and ring road I was at that moment. I suddenly wished that I had a magnifying glass with me so that I could look more closely at the lichen. Maybe next time I thought to myself, well actually I thought maybe I should buy one so that maybe next time.

I try and decide what the trees are, I am not a great identifying of trees but I think these are blackthorn. A good barrier of a tree that has wicked long thorns. The dark stems are covered in white simple open blossom in the Spring followed by the sloes in Autumn. It is a tree commonly grown around here and I have quite a bit of it growing in the boundary hedge to the back garden. The thorns are fierce and needle like. The tips seem to break off sticking in the skin quite easily, each tip giving the potential for a swollen painful splinter that could just be removed simply or carries the real fear of infection. I always know when I have been pruning the blackthorn as I will spend days picking out the black splinters from my hands.

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