Blossom and Leaf in May around Froyle

What a beautiful time of year to walk around the village! And much of the charm comes from the blossom and fresh green leaves of the trees and shrubs in our hedgerows and copses. Here is a closer look at a few of the trees flowering around Froyle in May. These are all native varieties, which thrive on our chalky soil, and are excellent choices if you are looking to ‘wild’ a section of your garden.

Elder grows as a shrub or small tree, with flat-topped heads of sweetly scented creamy flowerets: many pollinators are attracted to the flowers, and dormice and bank voles will snack on them too, while moth caterpillars such as the white-spotted pug, swallowtail, dot moth and buff ermine eat the new leaves.
In folklore, elders were believed to protect farm buildings from malicious spirits, witches, and lightning, provided that the resident ‘Elder Mother’ was treated with respect! Bad luck to anyone who did not ask permission to harvest the flowers and fruit, or damaged the tree. The flowers can be used to make wine, cordial or tea, or fried to make fritters.

Hawthorn in flower is sure sign that summer is on the way; the white or pale pink blossoms are almond scented, and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The dense, thorny shrubs provide excellent nesting shelter for many varieties of bird, and the leaves are food for caterpillars of the hawthorn moth, the orchard ermine, and the light emerald moth.

Hawthorn is a pagan symbol of fertility and has ancient associations with May Day. A hawthorn tree was the ancestor of the Maypole, set up on the village green and decorated with ribbons, to preside over the festival fun and dancing. The leaves and blossom were also gathered on May Eve to be used in May Day garlands, which were carried in procession through the countryside. The young leaves, flowers and flowerbuds can all be eaten in salads, and a tea brewed from hawthorn leaves is believed to be good for the circulation.

Whitebeam: There are several of these lovely graceful trees growing around the lanes and gardens of Froyle, and they are at their most beautiful in May, with the pale silvery undersides of their newly emerged leaves, and heads of creamy, sweet scented blossom, beloved by the bees. The leaves are a valuable source of food for the caterpillars of such moths as the bordered pearl and the short-cloaked moth.
The hard, fine grain of whitebeam wood made it a popular building material in Anglo Saxon times, and traces have been found in the doorpost holes at roundhouse sites. Along with elm, it appears to have been used as a ‘boundary tree’ planted at the edges of villages and estates.

Guelder Rose is a large shrub, rather than a tree. It has deeply lobed leaves and denser clusters of pink/white flowers, rather like a lacecap hydrangea, and grows in shady and damp conditions. Guelder rose is an ancient-woodland indicator species. If you spot it while you’re out exploring, it could be a sign you’re standing in a rare and special habitat. The flowers are visited by several pollinating species, especially hoverflies, and is the food plant for such moths as the privet hawkmoth and common quaker. Low and dense shrubs such as the guelder rose form prime nesting sites for many of our visiting warbler species.
A tea made of the bark is believed to relieve muscle cramp. Finally, guelder rose is one of the national symbols of Ukraine, and is mentioned in many folk songs and featured in traditional art and embroidery, which alone is an excellent reason for planting one at the back of your garden!

Sue Lelliott, Froyle Tree Warden