Tuesday, 22 January 2019

January Tree, January Flower

Well, you didn't think Wandering John could go to the Botanic Garden and confine his meanderings to just one small area, did you? No, after I'd photographed the Winter Garden I drifted further afield and formulated an idea: how about if I were to select just one flower and one tree that happen to catch my eye each month? Lets give it a go....

Sierra Redwood - sequoiadendron giganteum

When it comes to catching the eye not much can compete with the Sierra Redwoods as they soar above everything else. These though are just babies, being only just over 160 years old and measuring only 30 metres in height. The biggest one in the world (in California) is over 80 metres high and has been on this earth for 2,500 years!

Even so these are some pretty impressive "babies"! I just had to take a photo like this, as I remember well the first time I stared up in awe at the size and strength of these giants. They must have been a little smaller then, and I was much smaller, being just four years old.

Now some six decades later I'm back once more in this safe, secret space under the tangled, downsweeping branches - and on this rainy day it's quite dry within.

Children are still very welcome here and the University sets about inspiring the gardeners and botanists of the future by scattering bright little signs all round the garden to make a trail for junior explorers.

Here's a picture of William Lobb, who is a figure of great importance to these trees, as he was the Victorian plant-hunter who brought back the first substantial supply of Sequoia cones, from which these very trees were grown. Apparently a portion of one of these historic cones is safely stored away somewhere in the University.

The bark of the main trunk is tough and fibrous but the branches can be exquisitely smooth and patterned, as well as being a rich and varied colour.

Now where can we find a stunning flower to photograph on a dull day in January?

Candelabra Aloe - aloe arborescens

…..in the Glasshouse Range of course! In the section devoted to plants from arid lands.

The Candelabra Aloe i
s native to Southern Africa where it tends to favour cliffs and rocky outcrops, but can grow anywhere from sea level to mountainsides. It used to be grown around kraals (livestock enclosures) as it soon formed a stock-proof barrier of prickly leaves, which were also unpalatable to grazing animals. Apparently the sites of old kraals can be found to this day by the large clumps of aloes that survive.

As well as bearing striking flowers it has been studied for possible medical uses, including treatment of certain cancers, hypertension, diabetes, depression and obesity. It's been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

It's a pity that our climate is too cold for it to grow outdoors, so we'll just have to enjoy it here, with its flowers bent against the roof of the glasshouse.

Take care.


  1. Good idea to get to know a couple of organisms in greater detail. I have been among the redwoods in California, an experience that does not leave you unmoved. Thank goodness a few ancient trees remain for us to enjoy. If the logging industry had its way they woukd all be gone. Actually, it's a wonder that the protectors of nature in the Trump administration haven't issue licences for their removal. Just imagine all thise board feet of lumber!

  2. The redwood Giants are a spectacular sight from every angle. The candelabra aloe grow so well here in Australia, the aloe juice is so soothing on sunburn.
    P.s. I had a look at the link for Bookshop Alnwick, incroyable!

  3. Hi John, I am a first time visitor dropping in from Somewhere in Ireland. The candelabra aloe is aptly names and indeed a colorful sight on a wintry day. My window view in NH was if snow and ice with singke digit temps so this was a welcome break. The redwood is majestic and quite beautiful especially its bark. I plan to spend more time wandering through your past blog posts.

  4. Great idea! I really enjoy the redwood photos and info.

  5. I love that photograph of the close up of the bark John - it is like a painting and certainly good enough to hang on the wall. Your idea is a good one - I wonder if you can keep it up all year - do hope so.

  6. I love seeing the Redwood there. I feel lucky to live up here on the north coast of California sometimes referred to as "living behind the redwood curtain." The ancient trees are truly a sight never to be forgotten. The Candelabra aloe is so beautiful.

  7. Yes, good choice of the redwood, though I've never seen one in person. I would love to someday! We've got "alternative health" products with aloe vera all over the place, I wonder how different is the aloe that's being researched there...

  8. A great way to start, the Redwoods are amazing. I remember seeing them in CA years ago, their size is incredibe. The Candelabra Aloe is very pretty to see up close.
    Excellent photos, John.

  9. One can imagine those aloes making a very impenetrable hedge. They look a bit untidy and rambling. I like the close-up shot of the leaves.

  10. Have some redwoods around here I have seen though never come across the flower before

  11. You are resourceful to find such interesting photos in the grey cold weather. The aloe plant grows well here too. Those trees are amazing. I've seen them in California.

  12. Great photos...I am showing my stupidity but did not realize you had the redwoods, too! I am so glad you do. And I love that Candelabra Aloe...

    1. In the nineteenth century a band of eccentric and daring Englishmen scoured the world looking for new plants to grow in the gardens of their wealthy sponsors. Redwoods were among the things they brought back and some cones were donated to the University's Botanic Garden. They were found to grow faster in the UK than in their native habitat, which may well be because the climate in California had become drier since the Redwoods' heyday. That would also explain their limited range in the wild.

  13. Wonderful shots! Or should I say, tree-mendous!

  14. There is a redwood grove on the southern Oregon coast, that I had the pleasure of hiking through last spring.

  15. I love the Redwood trees, there are some beautiful ones at our local NT gardens at Biddulph plus an exhibition about the plant hunters like William Lobb. All very fascinating. Im looking forward to your monthly flower and tree posts:)

  16. A dull day?! Your January looks better than our summer.
    Your tree photos are wonderful. Trees are lovely and old trees are even lovelier.
    The aloe is fascinating too, but my heart beats for the (coniferous) trees.

  17. What a good idea for a monthly feature! That aloe is well named, it does look rather like a candleabra.

  18. Lovely post, John, - brightening up the dull January days. The Redwoods are so amazing, but the African aloe is bright and beautiful as well, - gorgous colour.

  19. I love this idea, especially the tree! I think trees have such uniqueness that’s not often noticed and when i learned a few years ago that they communicate with other trees i was over the moon. They definitely communicate with me!

  20. I admire your idea of one tree and one flower. I'm positive I couldn't pick just one to blog about!!
    Your choices are fabulous and, as always, your narrative fun to read.

  21. Hi John - I've seen a few trees in the last year - your photos are stunning, mine most definitely never matched up. Great info too - trees have so much to tell us - cheers Hilary


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