The Ghost Tree
As you get ready for Halloween, why not dip into Strange Trees? In this strange but true chapter, authors Bernadette Pourquié and Cécile Gambini look at the Davidia, nicknamed the Ghost Tree.
Midnight. On the grounds of a very, very black manor, the full moon is shining on the grove where I’m hiding. I was planted here ten years ago, but today was the first time the gardener mentioned an apparition of . . . ghosts!
You get up from bed, convinced that specters only come out at night. Twigs snap under your feet, as you walk toward the magic place. At a bend of a dark alley, you are paralyzed with fear just ten steps away from me. Under my rustling foliage, uttering in the wind, you see countless white shapes that seem to be floating all around my gray boughs. Paralyzed by the haunting sound of the breeze, you can’t tell anymore if those are ghhh . . . ghosts moving or whether you’re the one trembling. You zip back to bed.
You’ll be able to observe this phenomenon for two to three weeks, and even show it to your less brave friends in broad daylight! The first time I flower, I bear flowers without petals, red blood balls surrounded by stamen. They are protected by specialized leaves, so-called bracts, that look like lightweight white sheets floating on the breeze.
When my real leaves fall and my false ghosts have wilted, I’ll have just as weird a disguise: a kind of large walnut at the tips of my bare branches, with, inside, a berry holding ghost tree seeds! To grow your own Davidia, make sure to plant the whole fruit. My brothers will be glad to haunt your garden. Until then, everyone can sleep soundly, because my white ghosts only serve to attract insects. You can take my ghostly word for it!
Strange Trees And the Stories Behind Them by Bernadette Pourquié and Cécile Gambini is available from:
Bernadette Pourquié lives among fig trees in the South of France. She has worked in publishing and written several books and plays for children. Designer Cécile Gambini has illustrated numerous children’s books and lives in France near many beautiful, if ordinary, trees.