Friday, May 03, 2013

South Slope flowers, Part 2

By the railroad track west of White Rock, there is a small apple tree, sprouted, probably from someone's apple core tossed into the moist soil at the base of the cliff. The apples are quite tasty, if small and somewhat scarred. I brought home a bag last year, and made myself a batch of good applesauce.

I looked for the new flowers last week, but didn't see them. It may be a bit early yet. But its relative, the bitter cherry, was in full bloom nearby.

Prunus emarginata

The fruit trees from the Rose family, apples, crabapples, plums, cherries, and pears, can be very confusing. The flowers are similar; 5 petalled beauties, white or pink, in showy clusters, blooming around the same time, on trees that vary with location and treatment, and that hybridize easily.  Only the Japanese cherries, like the rest but with double and triple flowers, mostly pink and often weeping, are easy to recognize at first glance.

The bitter cherry produces flowers that grow in small open clusters along the branch, which may be red, greyish, or a reddish purple. The leaves are round-tipped and hairy.

Around 5 to 10 flowers per cluster.

The choke cherry that we sometimes see here groups its flowers in long clusters of more than 10 blooms, at the end of the branch. Its cherries will be similar; small, red to black, and too bitter to eat as is, although the bitter cherry is worse, and sometimes called inedible. Some people, though, make jams and jellies with them, using large quantities of sugar.

I have tasted them, directly off the tree. I like strong flavours, but these were too much for me; I had to spit them out.

More flowers. Just because they're pretty.

Zooming in. I saturated the yellows a bit to show the hairs along the stems.

The bark of the bitter cherry is rot-resistant and could be peeled off the trunk in long strips, which BC First Nations people used in tool construction, for wrapping joints. They were also woven as decoration into cedar baskets. Used "au naturel", it was reddish, but it was also darkened to almost black by burying it in swampy ground for up to a year. Here's a sample basket, made by a Salish native in Washington state.



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