A little while ago I asked a fresh faced young tree officer how a large shrub was different from a tree.

The question is legally significant because I can do what I like with a shrub but  I can’t with  a tree in a conservation area.

With an air of youth patiently explaining ‘collegey’ facts to possibly ignorant old age he said that a tree was single stemmed and a shrub multi – stemmed.

If that really is true in law that frees me up to do quite a lot – I’d still take the cautious approach and check first I think.

I am however sure that botanically it is incorrect. I too am college trained, but intent on getting what I wanted I didn’t pursue it. I just thought ‘What of Amelanchier lamarckii and there’s the Judas Tree and……. what happens if you coppice trees and so on?’

I think its a grey area.

I mean does this look like a tree or a shrub?

 I free it of water shoots shortly and this is then what its trunk looks like:

It is  Lonicera maackii, so a honeysuckle relative and part of its beauty is the excressences on its trunk which in winter assume a sculptural beauty.

I paused this afternoon with a barrowful of weeds beneath it on the way to the compost heap in the wood and was wondering how this fitted into the tree officer’s definition, when I became aware of a keening sound, up above me, like a continuous high pitched wind. 

To my amazement the Lonicera was in flower – this is not something you always notice because, shrub or not, all the blossom is above head height:


And the sound was bees, many hundreds no doubt, working the flowers:

 My point and snap was too poor to pick them out, but I have never heard so much bee noise in one plant.

Red fruits follow the flower in due course. It should be a good crop this year!


PS Hillier, the RHS and Bean say its a shrub.