Friday, 18 April 2014

Wayfaring tree

Tucked in amongst the other trees on the edge of the wood in the pylon field is another flowering tree.  This is the Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum lantana).  Despite its name it is barely a tree and is not included in many tree identification books.
The flowers are the typical white pompoms of a viburnum and the leaves are very wrinkly and covered with white fur on the under-side.  The species name 'lantana' means 'woolly'. 

Some of the flowers are still in bud so expect to see more in the next weeks.  Notice how the stems always divide in two.

In autumn the berries are at first red and then ripen to black.
My 'Observer's Book of Trees and Shrubs of the British Isles', which I was given for Christmas in 1953, has the following to say about the various names: 
'The local names of this shrub include Mealy-tree, Whipcrop, Cotton-tree, Cottoner, Coven tree, Lithe-wort, Lithy-tree, Twist-wood or White-wood. 
Mealy-tree, Cotton-tree, Cottoner and White-wood all have obvious reference to the appearance of the young shoots and leaves, due to the presence of the white hairs with which they are covered. 
Lithe-wort, Lithy-tree, also Twist-wood and Whipcrop, indicate the supple and elastic character of the branches, which are often used instead of Withy to bind up a bundle of sticks or vegetables, or to make a loop for a gate fastener. 
On the Continent the shoots, when only a year old, are used in basket weaving, and, when a year or two older, serve for pipe-stems'
Wikipedia also mentions Hoar Withy as a name.

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