Even Monkeys Fall From Trees

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.

As smooth as a baby’s bottom. You need to actually feel the bark to appreciate how smooth it is.

The last leaves remaining on a shoot.  Yes, that’s a ginkgo in the background.

In addition, the tree often grows into gnarly twisted forms, and the absence of foliage really brings this out.

Twists and gnarls, all still smooth, are features of mature trees.

I think the tree actually looks its best when it’s bare.


Oh, and apparently monkeys can climb the tree easily…

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4 Responses to Even Monkeys Fall From Trees

  1. Rather like it’s random free-form shape….

  2. GOAT 山羊 says:

    Of course that should be EFL. Or maybe EINGTHL: English as an Impossible, Never Going To Happen Language.

  3. GOAT 山羊 says:

    Thanks for reminding me of the old slippery-monkey tree. Nice post. I’m just nearing the end of a completely student-free school day — it really does not get any better than this in ESL, as you know all too well. Used the time and sanity to get a post done — I’ve been finding it hard to get in the blogzone as well. And those short late-Autumn days: unlike you, I have NO commitments, so I’m bored out of my freaking skull when the workday ends…

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