This month’s Festival of The Trees ask us to ponder how they “motivate you to action, whisper to your soul or heart or mind, intersect your life, and inspire.” Such a theme could occasion a book which would be a paradoxical waste of a treasured resource so let me be brief and merely count the ways…
Trees Under Threat: Green is the color of nature, signifying growth and renewal. More recently this hue has entered politics with multiple concerns for the environment but those of us in Britain are well aware of one green issue that has recently accelerated itself to the top of the political agenda with the proposed privatisation of half of the 748,000 hectares of woodland currently owned by the government backed Forestry Commission.
As our most ancient native tree, the story of the European Black Poplar (Populus nigra subsp. betulifolia) is one of decline and fall from a once common timber species with a substantial economic and cultural significance to a near vanishing point from the British landscape. Calls for a nationwide recording project in the 1990s1 has ferreted out a scattered population of about 7,000 ageing trees. London has a fair smattering across 21 boroughs, though most are confined to the rural edges of the Hackney Marshes and along the rivers Lea and Thames.2 There are a few urban loners too such as the sentinel by the Tower of London but closer to home I went in search of the solitary Black Poplar in Russell Square.
Urban Black Poplar