Wildlife to look out for in December – Holly and Oak
In the Winter, the Holly Tree looks amazing with it’s dark, evergreen spiky leaves and bright red berries, whereas the Oak Tree looks subdued with it’s bare twigs and branches, denuded of leaves. Both these trees have been part of the british woodland for centuries and together they have become central to a traditional tale, told by our ancestors, about the contrasting nature of our natural world and the circle of life. Traditional tales are often told to entertain but to also give life lessons or pass on information about the world around us, just like this one.
In this story, the Holly King and Oak King are spirits of the wild wood. They are a pair of brothers that dominate the natural world, constantly fighting for supremacy over the year. The Oak King is a strong, younger man, who reigns during the year when the sun is rising in the sky, from midwinter to midsummer, a type of ‘Green Man’. The Holly King in an older, grey bearded man who reigns as the sun lowers in the sky, from midsummer to midwinter, travelling around the world in a sleigh pulled by stags, a predecessor of Santa Claus! So, with the oncoming Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year, 21st December), the Holly King and Oak King fight and the Oak King triumphs, whereas at the Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year, 21st June) they fight again and the Holly King wins. This tale symbolises the constant waxing and waning of the year, from cold to warm and dark to light; it shows that even though the brothers are enemies, that without one, the other would no longer exist and that at the time when each King is at his full strength and splendour, he will still be defeated.
Common species like the Holly and Oak, have relatively stable populations. There are a few holly trees in Risby, but they are vastly outnumbered by the large oak trees in the village. Last year was a ‘Mast Year’ for Oak trees, which means that they produced a massive amount of acorns in 2020 but this year very few acorns have been produced. Holly trees are dioecious, which means they are male or female, so you need to plant both to get the red berries, we love to see!
Things you can practically do to help Holly and Oak Trees:
1. Plant more of them!
2. Holly Trees can be propagated from cuttings
3. Oak Trees can be grown from acorns
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef08x54gO7M - watch the video of this lovely tale
Risby Wildlife Working Group (WWG) News
Reading Tree Suggestion to the Parish Council - Reading and storytelling under trees is a great way to engage children in stories and nature. The Wildlife Working Group have suggested to the Parish Council that we have a designated Risby Reading Tree or Trees in the village for this purpose (please see the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee section in this edition for more information). If you think this is a good idea, please show your support by filling in the form – thank you.
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