Saturday, 31 August 2019

August Flower, August Tree

I recently paid a visit to the Botanic Garden in Cambridge in order to photograph, and hopefully learn a little, about any flower and tree that caught my eye. At this time of year I'm rather spoilt for choice with everything growing vigorously thanks to our fickle climate which has mixed warm days and rainy days in a way that has frustrated holiday-makers but suited many plants just fine.

Love-Lies-Bleeding - Amaranthus Caudatus

What's in a name? Amaranth or Amaranthus or Tassel Flower or Tampala or Flaming Fountain or Joseph's Coat or Fountain Flower or Molten Flower or Prince's Feather or Summer Poinsettia or Love-Lies-Bleeding? To be fair these names are sometimes reserved for close relatives of a complex group of flowers. Things could be worse: another closely related plant goes by the charming name of Pigweed.

This, I think, is the form known as Prince's Feather. Its Latin name is curious indeed.....

Hypochondriacus ?......what did it do to get a name like that? 

Most of the Amaranth family come from Central and South America. The Incas made great use of the plant eating the leaves and the flowers, extracting a dye from the flowers, as well as using it during religious ceremonies. 

In the Victorian "Language of Flowers" it's supposed to represent hopeless love.

Caucasian Elm - Zelkova carpinifolia

The zelkovas are a small, distinct genus within the Elm family of trees. These trees were far more widespread about 6,000 years ago but now exist in just a few isolated areas in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran. What makes things worse is the fact that the timber from these trees is very valuable being light, strong, flexible, rot resistant and attractive. Add in more frequent droughts and pressure on its home range from industrialisation and tourism and you have a tree under threat.

There are attempts to save the tree by setting up national parks, and presumably growing trees in parks and botanic gardens will also have a part to play. As you can see from just looking at the bottom portion of the trunk it's a very distinctive tree. It gets even more interesting as we progress upwards....

It soon develops into multiple branches which, rather than spread outwards, continue to zoom upwards towards the sky.

The second part of its name, carpinifolia, means "having leaves like a hornbeam", which indeed it has. I rather wish I'd taken a close-up of the light shining through the leaf as it reveals the structural details. (Zoom in if you want to see).

Just like the English Elms, which I remember from before they succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease, they appear to throw up "suckers" from their roots which, once the roots have spread out beyond the parent tree, will grow into clones,

And nearby is another Caucasian Elm which may well have developed in this way.

Take care.


  1. The Zelkova is quite picturesque!

  2. Good to see that bird box on the tree.

  3. The bird box probaby gets a lot of traffic during the season.

  4. You always highlight such interesting plants!

  5. Hi John - the Amaranthus are an interesting genus ... love the hypochondria one! Also the elm like trees - as too the bird box: good to see that - cheers Hilary

  6. The elm is stupendous, and yes, needs to be making many many more of its kind. I would guess it doesn't get the disease like so many other elms. I hear there's a resistant strain being developed somewhere.

    1. Apparently they are somewhat resistant to the disease but not immune from it. There was a village near here where the elms were unaffected and there was talk of exporting them elsewhere. I haven't heard any more about it and I wonder if those trees did eventually succumb.

  7. I love seeing the flowers there, and that elm tree is so awesomely beautiful.

  8. I like that Prince's the color of Love Lies Bleeding. I had not heard of the Caucasian Elm. It really does have an interesting appearance.

  9. I can see why the Incas would use the flowers for dye, the colour is so vibrant. The tree is fascinating with all its branches reaching upwards, I like your first photo of the base of its trunk:)

  10. The Amaranth Hypochondriacus is perhaps prone to unnecessary droopage 😉 Beautiful shots John, the Zelcova does indeed have an unusual branch formation.

  11. Beautiful flowers! And that's quite a tree!

  12. I think Amaranth is just called amarant in Dutch, a bit dull when I read all the English names there are.. ;)

  13. I love your blog! Always so informative. Thank you! Love, Judy

  14. We saw so many trees we didn't know while we were in England. Next time I'm bringing an identification book with me.


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