Friday, 16 June 2017

The Man Who Planted Trees

"Conservators have documented more than 60,000 different species of trees on the planet; of these more than 10,000 are under threat of extinction."
Some time ago, I read a novel titled ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’. Many years later it was made into an award winning not-for-profit film. The story begins when the narrator visits Provence in France during the early years of the twentieth century - a journey that led him into the foothills of the Alps. There, in a lonely and desolate place, a meeting takes place with a shepherd who is planting the acorns from the single oak tree that grows in the area. After the First World War, the war-weary narrator returns to this place and discovers a remarkable oak forest. The old man is in a home for the elderly but described his satisfaction and contentment that his contribution to posterity has a beneficial one.

I was delighted to hear recently that a nut bearing tree is helping the very poor people of Ghana to move from extreme poverty through education and self-sufficiency. The tree is named after a Scottish Botanist, Allan Black, and it can be grown to provide medicines, oil for cooking and lighting, and it also makes a good dye for clothing. It also provides shelter and all the other many valuables that trees provide.

There are some outstanding charities promoting tree plantation in many areas around the world. One of these is Project Greenhands that has recruited volunteers to plant indigenous trees in Tamil Nadu, S India; one tree for every 50p that is donated to the organisation.  

In the UK, we do the opposite of protecting our tree stock so overwhelmed are we with the needs of people. I have often collected acorns and conkers and kept them in my handbag until I have found a suitable place for planting (not near foundations of properties or where underground pipes or phone lines can be affected). I have also recently found out that trees can be grown from cuttings, if propagated at the right time, with the correct conditions. Several friends have cuttings of my Tamarisk tree. Five years ago, I was in West Cork staying with relatives and my ancient aunt had a handkerchief tree in her garden which greeted me with a waving white handkerchief each time I looked out of the window. I have never seen another in the UK except at Kew Gardens. As I was returning home to the UK, I broke off a twig and placed it in my luggage. It survived the journey and, with a smattering of rooting hormone and some tender loving care, it is now ten feet tall and doing well in my London garden. Wendy Stokes:


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