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Meditate in a Wild Oak Tree

Some thoughts on British Native Trees for today's wildlife challenge.

How often do we look at trees and ‘wonder’?
As a living species that can survive several thousand years, many trees must have stood quietly in the background to many thousands of thinkers!
random acts of wildness nature challenge 30 days wild oak tree
Some thoughts on British Native Trees for today's wildlife challenge.

Thinking about trees for this 30 Days Wild Random Acts of Wildness nature challenge...can thoughts on a tree thousands of miles from Britain help put Britain’s local native trees into perspective...the distance between them is not so far really.

Have you ever stood inside a tree?
In a baobab tree, in Africa, on a blazing hot sunny day – along with a class of children... The tree had a wide opening in its trunk and we all stood together within its shady walls.

The baobab tree can reach around 100 ft – which makes its 36 ft diameter seem quite in proportion. In a larger tree, it is possible that every child in the village school would have squeezed into it, as well as their teachers. Such trees have been used as shops, houses and other small buildings and huts. Its trunk can store 1000 ltrs of fresh water and it is able to withstand bush fires – it regrows its trunk bark, as if by magic!

It is home, host and provider to many species: from birds and humans to bats (which pollinate the flowers that only bloom at night!) and baboons, reptiles and even elephants! It is a food source for wildlife and humans, rich in vitamins A and C, providing nutrition from its fruits and juices, which includes tasty smoothies. Even its edible leaves have medicinal qualities, its bark can be used to make rope and its pollen, glue!

It is known as The Tree of Life, unsurprisingly, and it is easy to imagine how one tree can hold many secrets and tales – even when it dies, it dies from the inside...it suddenly collapses, as if by magic!

Magical indeed!

Britain’s Native Trees
What about Britain’s native trees – by comparison are they, perhaps, a little unexciting…?

Birds, bats and insects live in holes in our native trees. Either they make the holes, such as the woodpecker, they make use of natural cracks and crevices in the tree bark (nuthatches and tree creepers) or reuse woodpecker and other ready-made holes. Even bluetits make use of discreet holes and cracks in the bark. Squirrels live in our native trees and, locally, they have a feast in the hazlenut (cobnut) trees. From the roots, they provide gateways to the underground worlds of dens and sets, homes to foxes and badgers, as well as host many varieties of UK native plants...and all the way out to the ends of the branches, many birds, wildlife and insects feast on our local trees, which provide leaves, nuts, berries and seeds.

The oak tree is a keystone species, a national tree emblem for several countries, including England, and symbolic of strength, wisdom and endurance. Like the baobab tree, its history is steeped in poetry, tales, myths and legends: from Robin Hood and his men’s hideaway in a hollow oak to a critical part for an oak tree in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, to many tales of elves, witches and fairies. There really are a lot of faces and creatures within the gnarled trunks and branches of oak trees - there's even something hiding in this small section of ancient oak tree - more of that later...). The oak has been a tree of the gods, kings and, even, queens (Queen Elizabeth Oak Tree). More recently The Suffragette Oak was named Scotland's Tree of the Year in 2015.

Traditionally, it has been used in medicinal remedies and cures, although it is toxic to some animals, including horses, and needs the tannins removed before human consumption. However, humans can eat the acorns, once the tannins have been removed – how about some caffeine free coffee! Or  a stew! Or roasted acorn nuts…! As with the baobab, it can be used in a variety of ways; it is a prized as a very strong wood for furniture and flooring, house and ship timber of the past, and also for flavouring drinks and food, such as wines and cheeses.

So whilst is cannot be called a tree of life in its entirety – combined with other British native trees, many of which provide edible fruits and offer cosy homes, it can be viewed as one of a number of native trees that provide and support life our own special trees which have stood by our insects, wild animals and birds as they have evolved over thousands of years...hosting thousands of insects, birds and wildlife, providing food and drink in a thousand recipes, featuring in a thousand stories and poems, myths and legends (not to mention paintings!) and having a thousand and one other uses from products to home remedies and herbal cures…!

Despite the baobab's geographical distance, it is not such a distant tree from our own native trees in some ways. It is even known as the 'upside-down' tree - and it is not so far off looking like an upside down oak tree, either!

Magical Indeed! 

For the #30dayswild post in 2016, Nature Challenge : Meditate in the Wild, click here

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