Monday, March 23, 2015

Blackthorn




I saw this lovely specimen growing on the bank of the river Ouse on Sunday when out looking at the ravens building their nest on the chalk cliffs on the other side. It's also pertinent as I was treated to some of Bill and Gail's sloe gin (mixed with a sparkling white wine) on Saturday evening.
Prunus spinosa is a big plant in terms of its utility and folklore. Not quite as much as Whitethorn (Hawthorn), but still considered a powerful tree. The blossoms are unlucky in the house or worn but the shoots are good, especially for walking sticks. Grigson (see Inspiring books) gives the vernacular names which include some real corkers: snag-bush; egg-peg-bush; scrogg; pig-in-the-hedge.
Every year I tell myself I must collect some to have another go at making sloe gin. Our first attempt (many years ago) was considered a failure; too sour. This time we'll take advice.
The other interesting point about it is that it is thought to be one of the 'parents' of domestic plums: Prunus domestica. The latter is hexaploid. Blackthorn is tetraploid and the other parent is thought to be the diploid Cherry-plum, Prunus cerasifera, mentioned only the other day: it's all connected folks!
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