The na­ture of things

Black po­plar

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Edited by Vic­to­ria Marston

ITS abil­ity to hy­bridise with other poplars means that there’s some­times a co­nun­drum in iden­ti­fy­ing the Bri­tish na­tive black po­plar, Pop­u­lus ni­gra ssp. be­tuli­fo­lia, from oth­ers in which it has ge­netic in­ter­est. How­ever, old pas­toral paint­ings of­ten show the burred and fis­sured old cam­paigner in its full glory. Among them, nu­mer­ous of Con­sta­ble’s land­scapes of the Stour Val­ley show this mighty tree as it is too sel­dom seen now, tow­er­ing over the wa­ter’s edge, thrust­ing out big, curved limbs that, in their hap­haz­ard way, have an ideal, pic­turesque beauty.

Such paint­ings pre-date the changes of land use in mod­ern times: the drain­ing of wet mead­ows and cul­vert­ing of rivers have forced wa­ter-thirsty black poplars into longterm de­cline across Eng­land, al­though they’re still lo­cally abun­dant and ma­jes­tic in parts of Wales.

When left to its own de­vices on re­li­ably wet soil, the black po­plar achieves 100ft or more in height and its win­ter skele­ton, with stout branches even at great height when not pol­larded, can be seen a long way off. In

Mor­ris & Co Kens­ing­ton-2 Golden Lily um­brella,

£27, Ful­ton Um­brel­las (020–8963 3010; www.ful­ton um­brel­las.com)

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