Bay Laurel - Laurus nobilis L.

The Bay laurel tree (species name: Laurus nobilis L.) is the tree that "Bay leaves" (used to give flavor to cooking dishes) come from.  It also goes by the common names "Sweet bay", "True laurel", "Laurel" as well as a few more that I am not aware of.  In this post I have tried to capture the beauty of the Bay laurel´s flowers as well as the general appearance of the tree and its leaves.  The image below is of the newly opening flowers.

 The Bay laurel is one of those trees that has a tendency to become a small dense thicket.  This is due to the fact that it tends to send up multiple stems right from the base.  The trees below are continually cut back but you can still see the active growth of new stems at the base.

The leaves of the Bay laurel occur alternately on the branch and have a simple to Lanceolate shape with a smooth (entire) margin.  One way to identify a Bay laurel is by rubbing the leaf and smelling the sweet aromatic tone that is characteristic of the leaves and the flavor that it gives to cooking.

The flowers of the Bay laurel and a pale yellow color although they tend to fade and brown fairly quickly.

The flowers occur towards the end of the terminal branches interspersed between the last dozen leaves or so.

The following is an old (out of copyright) illustration of the main characteristics of the Bay laurel.

Pollarding of European Ash trees in Spain

The European ash tree (species: Fraxinus excelsior) is commonly used in Spain as a source of firewood using the technique called "pollarding".  Using this method the land owners are able to harvest decent firewood from their trees without killing them.  The methods consists in cutting all the branches off at about 8-10 feet off the ground every few years.  This rather severe pruning back of the tree causes it to maintain a partial juvenile state and as a result these "pollards" tend to live longer than trees of the same species that are not pollarded.  It also causes the trees to grow thicker at the trunk given them a sort of swollen look.  The pollarding does not kill these trees however and a new set of branches grows back to replace the ones that have been cut off.  The new branches tend to be fairly long and straight which makes them useful for poles or fence posts.  Since they branch off fairly close to the base it makes harvesting the next set of branches all the easier.

A similar practice to pollarding is called "coppicing" where the trees are cut off right at the base.  This is used with trees that grow back easily from the stump or roots in the form of new shoots.  Coppiced trees tend to have multiple trunks while pollarded trees will normally have just one thick trunk.

Custard Apple "Cherimoya" (Annona cherimola)

The Cherimoya or Custard-apple (species: Annona cherimola) is an edible fruit tree native to the Andes mountain region of South America. It is now widely planted as a fruit tree. The images in this post are from the south of Spain near the city of Málaga.

The leaves of this spreading tree are about 3-5 inches long with a simple ovate shape, pinnate venation and entire margins. They are also a bit warped.

The fruit of the Cherimoya is irregular and "heart" shaped in its own unique way. The ripe fruits are green with a smooth skin and a distinct pattern (see image below).

The flesh is a creamy color and quite soft and smooshy when ripe making it easy to eat with a spoon.
The seeds are roughly almond shaped and black. They are fairly easy to spit out when you get one or several in your spoonful of the soft sweet flesh.

The bark on younger trees is smooth but rough and cracked on older trees like the one below.

Chinese rain tree - Koelreuteria elegans

The Chinese rain tree (species name: Koelreuteria elegans) is a cousin of the Goldenrain tree. These two tree species have very similar and distinctive looking seed pods as seen in the image above.
The leaves of the Chinese rain tree are even-pinnate with individual leaflets having a lanceolate to acuminate shape with a serrate margin and a pinnate venation.
This native Taiwanese tree, like its cousin, it used as an ornamental street tree in the warmer sub-tropical zones of the world. This particular tree is in the botanical garden of the University of Malaga in southern Spain.

The seed pods are in clusters at the terminal tips of the branches as seen above.

How many species of Olive trees are there?

Have you ever wondered how many species of Olive trees there are in the world? It is a natural question to ask given the wide variety of Olives that can be purchased at the grocery store. Well, the answer is ONE. There is just one species of Olive tree "Olea Europaea".

One common assumption is that black olives grow on one species of Olive tree and green olives grow on another species of Olive tree. This, however, is a misunderstanding of the difference between black and green olives. The difference in color is a result of when they are harvested and in fact all olives will eventually turn a dark red/purple or almost black color if left to full ripen on the tree. Green olives are harvested once they have reached their maximum size but before they begin to turn dark purple. The best time to harvest is when the color begins to turn from a green color to a lighter green almost yellow color. Black olives are harvested after they have ripened when not only the outer skin is a dark color but also the fleshy "meat" layer between the skin and the pit but before the the olive looses its consistency and begins to shrivel.

Some varieties of olive trees can produce both good green or black olives depending on when the olives are harvested. It is more common however that any given variety produce either good black olives or good green olives. Also some olive tree varieties produce olives that are not suitable for either green or black "table" olives and are used only for the production of Olive Oil.

It is also important to know that neither green or black olives can be eaten when picked right off the tree. Both need to undergo some sort of treatment before they can be consumed safely.