In the woods near my house, I have been able to identify four black poplar trees. They’re not genuinely wild trees, for they seem to be growing evenly spaced in a straight line along the side of the path.
Actually, very few trees in England are completely wild, and most have been planted at some time or other. Black poplars are trees that reproduce by male trees fertilising female trees, so the fewer trees there are, the less likely it is for the trees to expand.
It is, in fact, officially listed as Britain’s most endangered species of native tree.
All four specimens in the wood are roughly the same size, which suggests they were planted at the same time. They are tall and solid, by far the biggest trees in the wood, though not necessarily the oldest, for there are oaks there that grow more slowly. But black poplars can live to be 300 years old.
These aren’t that old. I’m guessing, but they could have been planted about 150 years ago, when the canal was dug. Poplars like wet ground, and were often planted along canals.
Their leaves are on very long stalks, so the slightest breeze sets them off shimmering. It is a tree that is always fluttering.
When I was a kid in Leicester, poplar meant a tall, feathery tree, planted in rows along the edges of parks and playing fields. This, however, is the Lombardy poplar, so familiar from French impressionist paintings. Another alien, in fact.
But the black poplar is a native tree, and it feels good to have four of them in the local wood.