Jeff Ollerton
British Wildlife 33.6 May 2022

Common Elder: a natural and cultural history

Despite the wealth of folklore and mythology associated with the Common Elder, this species is seldom held in high regard among naturalists. Here, Jeff Ollerton explores the natural history and ecology of this neglected tree, and the different ways in which it can be used for our benefit.

The Hay Wain by John Constable is one of the best-known paintings in Britain, imme­diately recognisable from innumerable cheap reproductions and comedy send-ups such as Monty Python’s Art Gallery Strike sketch. Of the many individual elements in the picture – the cottage, the small dog, the woman filling a jug from the river, and of course the hay wain itself with its two occupants – there is one that is easily overlooked.

Natural reflections
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