Just up the road there’s a small green, mostly it’s used as a meet up place for people with dogs and I often get the chance to make a fuss of one of my four legged friend…I don’t know half the names of the owners but I seem to know all the names of the dogs…on the green are various trees including a stag horn sumac tree (it was planted by one of the dog walkers called Ken who has a lovely little Westie called Harry, or maybe it was his brother in law who planted it…anyway, I always think of it as Ken’s tree)….
A few years ago we noticed that some of the sumac had self seeded/spread by runners…not sure how it re-produces, but there’s now a small patch of shoulder high stems growing alongside one of the paths…..they look a bit odd at the moment but come Summer and they’re all covered in leaves…..I can never just walk past them, I always have to stop and stroke those velvety stems, they really do feel just like an antler, hard and fluffy at the same time…..
At the moment though they look most peculiar, slightly sinister…..the leaf fronds have begun to appear and they’re slowly stretching and unfurling out….the brightest reds and flame orange, tinges of a sickly yellow green….easily as bright as something you’d expect to see in an Amazon jungle….there’s something about the shape which reminds me of parrots, those amazing colours and those fronds look as hooked as any parrot’s beak..
But touching them is as pleasurable to my fingers as stroking those downy stems…they feel quite boney, yet downy soft…the closest comparrison I can think of is a rabbit’s hind foot…fur covered and soft, yet you can feel the bone and sinew underneath.
Last year I bought some fat alpaca yarn by Artesano from my local wool shop in the sunset colourway and it matches these sumac buds so well……a deep flame burst of Autumn leaved orange…….I’ve kept changing my mind about what to make with it, but after spending time touching these dragon toes and phoenix feather-like leaves I’m thinking something with a lace pattern, even though it’s a heavy aran weight yarn……it’s certainly as soft and velvety feeling as the budding stems.