Wednesday 13 November 2019

Berries of the Hawthorn in great abundance

Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

Several people have remarked on the great abundance of haws this year. True, these crimson red berries are putting on a great display at present especially as they come to prominence as the Hawthorn leaves fall and the slanting autumn sun catches the show of colour at a particular angle.

In the past, it was commonplace for people to see signs in nature. Some people still adhere to that way of looking at the natural world and ask: "What does the great profusion of berries mean?" "What is a sign of?"

In olden times people believed that some supernatural force be it the gods, God, Mother Nature, or whatever, gave signs and left clues to help people interpret the natural world. The Doctrine of Signatures used by herbalists is a case in point. The belief was that if a plant had a shape resembling a part of the human body, that was a sign that that particular plant could be used as a remedy to cure ailments of that particular part of the body.

Many people must have died martyrs to the Doctrine of Signatures. The ancient belief lingers on in the modern English names for some wild plants such as Liverwort, Lungwort, Spleenwort, and so on, 'wort' being an old name for a medicinal plant.

Those who still believe in signs from a supernatural source reckon that an abundance of haws is a sign of a severe winter ahead. To their way of interpreting the world, nature is preparing a bountiful store of food to tide wild birds over harsh times ahead.

The scientific view is that the present abundance of haws this October is evidence that weather conditions last May were favourable for bees to pollinate the Hawthorn blossoms and for the wayside sceachs to set seed. Weather records for May 2019 confirm that it was indeed a very pleasant month.

The bumper crop in autumn is a direct result of favourable conditions during the spring flowering. If last May had been cold, wet and windy, the blossoms would have been blown away, bees would not have been out and about, and a poor harvest would have been the result.

While it is too early to be anyway accurate, the long-range forecast suggests that the winter ahead is likely to be mild, wet and damp in keeping with computer model predictions of how climate change is impacting on our weather.

Wicklow People