Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Grasses and Ash Trees


This is the time of year when the wild grasses come into their own, their seed heads were one of the first plants to be cultivated. They anchored our Neolithic ancestors to a piece of land, humans turned from hunting as their main source of food, and slowly but surely learnt to till the land and produce crops. Here in this island of ours, the marks of ards (ploughs) can still be found beneath the barrows. It was probably the women who first collected the seed heads, then learnt to plant and pick out the heavier heads for next years crop. The great stone querns came into existence to grind the cereal, into the flours we know today.
Today the yield of wheat is prodigious for each acre, but all those thousands of years ago, the yield would have been small and very precious.


The wild grasses have many names, you can find wild oats,wild barleys,bent fescue, timothy grass, and cat-tails and I find it impossible to name each type, but at this time of year their grace as the wind gently ripples through their tall stems puts many a bawdy flower to shame, insignificant though the grasses maybe without them our existence would have been harder.

Ash trees; Up on the downs the ash rules supreme, late coming into leaf it survives the cold of winter and the fierce weather of gales that can be found on the more exposed parts of the downs.
But of course ash is the magical symbolic tree of - the Norse Yggdrasil tree, from which Odin hung for 9 days - a magical number in itself.
If you look at the leaves as they emerge, many ashes have a terminal leaf with four leaves on either side of the stem, making nine, though to be truthful sometimes you can get an 11 leaves or 13 leaves trees; perhaps they have hybridised along the way, so perhaps if you found a nine leafed ash, it was a bit like finding a four leafed clover.


Nine leafed Ash

But there is more to the tale, Aubrey Burl in his Stone Circle book, says that the ash also has a phallic symbolism in that the large black terminal bud has two small buds on either side, so if I ever remember to photograph this particular phenomena it will be added to this blog, but it is true and quite extraordinary once one's eye has been drawn to the fact.

The ash in early morning sun

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