Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why Willow? - A Bloody Fool - Abeliophyllum distichum

Abeliophyllum distichum in winter
This is the tree I took the cuttings from, assuming it was a willow, and planted as willow whips a month or so ago. I can only assume, now, that I thought it was a willow because its structure resembles, (but not that closely, when you look with an uncluttered mind), a weeping willow.

It's said here, that Abeliophyllum distichum "can be cut and brought inside in early spring for forcing in vases", and I can attest to that, because this plant is indeed A. distichum, also known as white forsythia, (it's closely related, but not a true forsythia). 

And during Xmas week, as I was planting the "willow whips" I had a Proust like recollection of willow in vases in my primary school, growing catkins. So I brought half a dozen home, and put them in a vase. Sure enough, they were successfully forced thereby, and began to grow leaves and buds, now flowering. 

Except that, it hit me a couple of days ago, these aren't the leaves of a willow tree; and those aren't catkins. Here's a photo:

A. distichum flower cluster, with creamy stamen

The flowers are on that cluster there, and open up into four white petals with a creamy white stamen, (of which last detail, more in a moment). 

Mistaking a white forsythia for a willow is an interesting mistake. I don't come out of it very well, as I've been walking past that tree almost every day through all seasons over the last 18 months or so. It's interesting because it shows that even someone who prides them-self as being observant and objective can make a wrong assumption, and, having mentally filed that away, will continue in a deluded state until the evidence jumps out at them.
A Bloody Fool

I've managed to retrieve some sense of intellectual self worth by the detective work I did after it became clear that this was NOT a willow. I went through my copy of Rusforth (2001) Easy Tree Guide, - "easy" will tell you that it is not comprehensive - and found the nearest species I could from that book - Phillyrea latifolia - by noting the leaf shape and the fact they were opposite, not alternating, pairs, and the flowers were rather similar. Googling got me to the family, Oleaceae, and eventually to Forsythia, and then, because the flowers are white rather than yellow, to white forsythia. 

Which brings me back to the final piece in the puzzle. Any which way you google it, white forsythia flowers have an orange stamen, whereas the ones on our windowsill are cream coloured. Maybe they will turn orange in due course (?).

It now remains to be seen if the twigs I put in the ground last month will take -  as they are not the looked-for willow, which will of course root almost anywhere. The ones in the vase have started to show wee roots below the water line, so I can but hope.