It’s two months to the day since my last ‘tree follower’ post and the weeks of rain can only have benefited the Camperdown elms in the fullness of their summer foliage. Back in May I focused on the solitary ‘Atropos’, which is how I refer to the third of these Umbrella elms (Ulmus Glabra ‘Camperdownii‘) that grow in Old St Pancras’ churchyard. The obvious signs of ageing and neglect are well hidden now under the density of leaves, although the suckering root-stock at base is obviously still evident. 1
Some of the best reasons for documenting a tree throughout the year is to gain knowledge, become virtually personally acquainted and develop powers of observation that the cursory glance misses. That is the theory and this latest photographic record proved the point whilst putting me to shame on the observation skills front. After 6 months it is as though I am seeing the trees for the first time….
Here are the three Camperdown elms displaying their modest stature and archetypical umbrella armature for which they are so loved and renowned…except that ‘Lachesis’ also has an obvious (though not noticed by me until now) towering upright branch. This is probably a genetic throwback developed from scar tissue or a snag.
As I was photographing ‘Clotho’, I looked across and was surprised to see what was obviously another elm of sorts growing on the opposite side of the path (considering all the visits I’ve made here how can I not have noticed before?). Viewed as a trio, it is evident that ‘Lachesis’ is emulating the upright growth of her original rootstock and opposite neighbour, which I believe to be a Wych elm. The rogue branch was growing too high for me to identify by leaf but Camperdown elms are usually grafted on these (Ulmus glabra). 2
To the touch, Camperdown elm leaves are sandpapery rough, being deeply veined and textured. The underside is a markedly pale contrast and the large (some as big as my hand) rotund leaves taper into a definite point. By contrast the Wych elm leaves are an understated version and more evidently oval though still with the toothed, lopsided and uneven leaf base that characterises these elms.
It is wonderful to stand inside the umbrella elms looking up and out through the pendulous herringbone tracery that filters sunlight into sparkles. If I failed to observe fully it is perhaps because these strange trees are so visually seductive. Thanks to Lucy and the Tree Followers meme, I”m starting to see, instead of just casting admiring glances at, the Camperdown elms of Old St Pancras.