Monday 27 May 2013

The Rochester Catalpa Tree

This wonderful tree stands between Rochester Castle and Rochester Cathedral. I saw it when I visited Rochester recently.

Although the towering ruins of the Norman castle and the vast cathedral are impressive, this tree appealed to the me more than either of them. Maybe that's just because I'm a tree-hugging hippy pagan, but I do think this tree is really something special.

The tree is a catalpa, which is extremely rare in the UK as it is native to warmer temperate regions of North America, the Caribbean and East Asia. As you can see, the Rochester Catalpa hasn't got leaves yet - which I hope is because it is a late bloomer and the weather is cold rather than because it has died! Catalpas normally have large, heart-shaped leaves, showy white or yellow flowers and, in the autumn, long fruits that look like bean pods.

However, even if the Rochester Catalpa is still alive, there is was a notice pinned to the fencing around it saying that money was needed to help save it, as it is extremely old and in danger of toppling over. It has also outgrown the fencing. There is a campaign to raise cash for new supports for the branches and funds for a tree surgeon to minister to it. You can find out more at the Rochester Catalpa Tree Appeal website

I knew very little about catalpas before I visited Rochester, and in fact still know next to nothing about the folklore, herbal or magical properties associated with them. A web search came up with a book called The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan.I haven't read it, but the reviews on Amazon seem interesting.

Rochester itself is an charming old town in Kent on the River Medway. As well as having a really impressive castle, it was once the home to Charles Dickens and has some interesting shops. But the best thing about it for me is its lovely catalpa tree and I hope it is blooming and thriving when I go back there.

Links and previous related posts


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful, spidery, brooding looking tree! I hope that it recovers and is saved. I can just imagine that covered in big, showy blossoms with sunlight glittering through heart-shaped leaves. I agree, the tree is more interesting than the buildings.

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