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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

IN BLOOM

Ringo no hana (apple blossom)


I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

From "The Song of Wandering Aengus" by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

The opening of the apple blossoms is a magical moment in spring. The combination of pink buds, white petals and fresh green leaves is simply beautiful, and even at this early stage the flowers give off the sweet fragrance of apples. Apple trees belong to the Rosaceae or rose family of plants, a large family that ranges from small creepers such as the wild strawberry to trees such as the ornamental cherries and evergreen loquat. Many members of this family have flowers with five petals and five sepals, toothed leaves, and edible fruits. Curiously, apple flowers are often borne in clusters of five blooms, and the central bud, which is held a little higher than the others, usually opens first. If you look at the base of the flower, you can clearly see the receptacle that, after pollination, will swell to form the fruit. I picked the apple blossoms pictured above from a wild tree growing in a hedgerow; commonly known in English as a "crab apple" (Malus sylvestris) . In autumn these trees produce masses of small, yellow and very sour fruit. Obviously, orchard varieties of apple, which have been developed over many centuries, provide us with much bigger, sweeter and juicier offerings!



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