The na­ture of things Myr­tles

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Il­lus­tra­tion by Bill Dono­hoe

THIS is a great au­tumn for berries: crab ap­ples are laden, firethorns are ablaze with em­bers foam­ing along their branches and holly is as ex­trav­a­gantly berried as it al­ways looks in Christ­mas cards. There’s bounty for the birds and those vis­it­ing from colder cli­mates should find their risky jour­ney here was worth­while. Here and there in the south and west, the bo­nanza will be sup­ple­mented with the black fruits of myr­tles, Myr­tus com­mu­nis and Myr­tus luma (aka Luma apic­u­lata).

The myr­tle of Mediter­ranean lands, Myr­tus com­mu­nis (right), is an in­ter­est­ing shrub or tree with pointed, oval leaves, ex­ud­ing spicy aro­mas when crushed. It’s special be­cause (like camel­lias and holly) those dark­est green leaves have a pol­ished up­per sur­face, the sheen of which helps to re­flect pre­cious sun­light in the win­ter.

Myr­tle was val­ued for other rea­sons in an­cient times: sa­cred to the god­desses Aphrodite and Deme­ter, it was linked with be­trothal and mar­riage (a sprig is still of­ten added to wed­ding bou­quets). Its use­ful­ness in re­liev­ing fever and pain (which we now know is due to high lev­els of sal­i­cylic acid, with as­pirin-like re­sults) was also known by the physi­cians of Clas­si­cal times. The Ro­mans used myr­tle ex­ten­sively for top­i­ary and hedg­ing, but, left un­pruned, it will be fes­tooned with pris­tine sum­mer flow­ers fol­lowed by the juicy berries that will be gorged on in win­ter by black­birds and their ilk. KBH

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.