New Year’s Day

I revisited the Birches in the Glen today, I greet the young tree at the gate, aptly placed, as in Welsh legend the Birch is said to mark the Gateway to the Otherworld.

I found some jackets from last nights Demons and Ninjas.

I saw the fabulous firework display last night over the rooftops of the park, as the doggies trembled in their houses.

I have been delving into legends of the Birch, and find that the Yakut, a nomadic people of Siberia, have a legend about Ai Toyon, the Creator of Light, whose children lived in nests on the 8 branches of the Birch, this is easy to imagine when I see the Winter silhouette.. this picture is from a neighbouring housing estate….are they real nests I wonder…?

nests of the children of Ai Toyon, Creator of Light

and I find out that they are Witches’ Broom!

Witches’ Broom are a type of gall created by micro organisms, which create a kind of twiggy tangle. Witches’ brooms on birch trees, according to the UK Woodland Trust , are ‘likely caused by a fungus called Taphrina betulina‘. Having stimulated this sudden growth, the fungus then feeds on the new shoots without inflicting too much harm on the tree itself.

“In a witches’ broom, the growth of a lateral bud – the buds that make twigs and side shoots – loses control and causes multiple stems to form in a tangled, disorganised manner. Multiple years of growth is required to create big brooms.”

The term ‘witches’ broom’ relates to the deformity in trees. In herbaceous plants this deformity is known by the scientific names of phyllanthies, phyllodies or chloranthies. Collectively, these are known as virescences. A virescence is a growth consisting of distorted and multiplied parts of a plant, either green and leafy or woody and twiggy. It comes from the Latin virescens which means ‘becoming green’, and is not the same root as the word ‘virus’, although some viruses do cause virescences!

Tree Folklore: Birch, the Lady of the Wood

Published by @julforres

Julie Forrester, artist based in Cork City Ireland

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