【赤鬼のつぶやき C.W.ニコル】リョウブ(JAPANESE CLETHRA)


 そして日本語でこの木は「リョウブ」と呼ばれていることをアファンの森財団のスタッフから聞き、ようやく教科書とインターネットで調べることができたのでした。リョウブ(Japanese Clethra)は、日本、韓国、中国に自生しています。学名はClethra barbinervisで、10メートルまでは育つことがあるようですが、たいていはもう少し小ぶりです。最初にヨーロッパに持ち込まれたのは1870年でした。1968年の明治維新のあと、異国情緒がある、特に花の咲く植物を求めて日本にやってきたプラントハンターが殺到したからです。







 We have a small tree in our Afan woods and just across from the entrance of our Horse Lodge that blossoms with clusters of tiny white flowers in early August. This was a tree whose name I did not know. The leaves were dark green on top and lighter green underneath, with fine, hairy veins.  In late August it produced pepper-sized berries on long stalks.

 Finally one of our trust staff told me that its name in Japanese is ‘ryoubu’ and I was able to look it up in textbooks and online.

 Ryoubu, or Japanese Clethra, is native to Japan, Korea and China. Its scientific name is Clethra barbinervis. They can grow to a height of up to ten metres, but are usually smaller.

 It was first introduced to Europe in 1870 when there was an influx of foreign plant hunters coming into Japan after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, looking for exotic plants and especially flowering trees.

 The young leaves of ryoubu have been traditionally eaten in Japan, especially as tempura. I don’t know if the berries are edible, but presumable birds will eat them in winter because the trees are propagated by their seeds. They are pollinated by bees and other insects.

 The wood is hard and dense and has been used for making charcoal (although we usually use nara and mizunara oak wood) and also for making utensils and as alcove posts.  In Europe, and then America, it was treasured as an ornamental plant. The striking white flowers that are sweetly fragrant and the tree has lovely autumn leaves. The grayish-brown flaking bark is attractive in winter.  It is apparently resistant to deer browsing, which I can understand because although our horses started to strip the bark from our cherry trees last winter, they didn’t touch the ryoubu bark.

 Japan has such a large number of native trees that I will have to keep on learning for the rest of my life.

C.W. Nicol September  2018