We’ve just had our first taste of what to expect in winter. Wearing two undershirts, a shirt, a vest and a windcheater and still feeling cold… sometimes I wonder how people survive in colder climes.
I’ve been suffering from blog withdrawal of late. Poor weather, increasingly shorter days – the sun sets soon after 4:30 – but no shortage of commitments outside of blogging (I don’t get paid for this, you know) have kept me from encountering subjects or actively searching for them.
The orb-weaving spiders and praying mantises have just about finished their single-year lifecycle, leaves are falling, and everything is making the transition over to winter mode.
Anyway, I took advantage of a lesson-free afternoon, and got a couple of photos of an interesting tree.
This is the crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica). A medium-sized (growing between three and nine metres tall) deciduous tree originally imported from China, it is a popular park tree for its pink or white flowers which bloom in August. In fact, the most commonly used characters for it (百日紅) – literally “hundred day crimson” – are taken from its Chinese name and refer to the relatively long-lasting bloom. An alternative name, hyakujikko, comes from this.
So why would I take an interest in it now, long past flowering and when it has lost nearly all its leaves? The answer lies in its bark. As the tree grows, the outer bark is shed, revealing a smooth mottled skin-like bark. This gives it its more common Japanese name, sarusuberi (猿滑) – literally “monkey slip”, based on the belief that the tree is so smooth that even monkeys cannot climb it. Other regional names also reference the smoothness of the bark.
In addition, the tree often grows into gnarly twisted forms, and the absence of foliage really brings this out.
Oh, and apparently monkeys can climb the tree easily…